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Vice Admiral W. de M. Egerton's Report on Passage of Convoy HX 212
(all times GMT, except where otherwise noted)
Received from Roger Griffiths - His source: Public Records Office, Kew.

Page 1 - Ships in HX 212

Some of the documents are difficult to decipher, especialliy with regard to the numbers, so some guessing has taken place.

Oct. 18-1942
Sailed from New York Midnight 17th-18th (local time). Convoy proceeded down swept channel. From A Buoy, course was set 076° and signal was made to form cruising order. Ships were in station at 15:30 when speed of 9 knots was ordered.

Oct. 19
Exercised Convoy at Emergency turns.
Jamaica Planter 12 pounder practice at smoke float target.
Run 230 miles.

Oct. 20
Several ships carried out 4" B.L. practice at smoke floats.
Speed was reduced to 8 knots to avoid being early at rendezvous.
Run 204 miles.

Oct. 21
08:45 - S.O.S. from Mathew Luckenbach (34) that she had been in collision and was sinking. Informed S.O.E. Zacapa (43) was other ship involved. R.C.N.S. Colombia ordered to stand by. It appears crew of 34 abandoned as quickly as possible. Colombia put a crew on board and my last information was to effect that ship was making for Halifax. The night was calm, clear and good visibility, and Convoy on a steady course, so how the collision occurred is a mystery. The nearest British ships could give no information.
12:30 - Halifax portion of Convoy (7 ships) and Western Local Escort (North) joined convoy. Detached two ships for Halifax.
Speed 9 1/4 knots, run 200 miles.

Oct. 22
Excercised convoy in carrying out alterations of course signalled by Table VIII Mersig. A submarine was reported in vicinity of Convoy by D.F. nothing, however, seen.
Run 235 miles.

Oct. 23
Speed had again to be reduced to avoid being early at Rendezvous (W.O.M.P.). Convoy excercised in manouvering by sound signal.
21:00 - Ocean Escort took over. Detached ships for Greenland and St. John's.
Received first lettered positions for a route diversion just before dark. Course of Convoy was altered by sound signal.
Run 232 miles.

Oct. 24
Thick fog most of day but managed to give convoy changes in stragglers' route.
Run 228(?) miles.

Oct. 25
In view of reports of submarines shadowing convoy; at 01:00 position 50 29N 44 50W, course was altered from 060° to 100° till 04:00 then 060° was resumed. At 21:00 course was altered to 0?0° (020? 080?) and at 24:00 to 060°. These alterations were ordered by S.O.E. Wind freshened considerably during night 25th-26th.
Run 225 miles.

Oct. 26
Moderate North to N.E. gale.
Run 202 miles.

Oct. 27
Many changes in destinations were received from S.O.E. and passed to ships concerned. Gale increased during the day with heavy rain and hail squalls. In the late afternoon, S.O.E. informed me submarines were again shadowing, and asked if I thought evasive action possible under existing weather conditions. As necessary course changes could not have been passed to convoy before dark and as altering by sound signals would not have been possible, I also being unwilling to use lights, it was agreed that no course alterations should be carried out. Course was, therefore, maintained at 074°. Speed signalled 9 knots, but probably about 8 knots. Columns 4 cables apart.
At about 20:00, lights of 3 brightly lighted ships were sighted bearing about 150° on the horizon. They appeared to be steering a converging course in single line (this is also mentioned by the captain of Frontenac, who is not very happy about it, but he seems to believe the neutrals were actually in HX 212 - see the link at the end of this page).
21:10 - Position 54 20N 31(?) 40W. A submarine attack developed on the port wing of Convoy. Frontenac (12) and Sourabaya (21) being struck almost simultaneously and Gurney E. Newlin (23) at about the same time.
At 22:25(?), the course of Convoy was altered by two emergency turns to 164° to clear the neutral ships who were then drawing dangerously close on a steady bearing.
At 22:50 (22:30?) , the Convoy was turned by two emergency turns back to 074° the neutrals then bearing 080° 2-3 miles, their course appearing to lie between 030° and 040°.
Run 205 miles.

Oct. 28
At 03:45, Kosmos II (22) was torpedoed on her starboard side. From intercepted messages, it was gathered she was not immediately abandoned and endeavours were made to get her underway, but at 07:32, she was struck by three more torpedoes and sank. HMCS Rosthern who was standing by her in company with Barrwhin (14), which ship as rear ship of her column is believed to have dropped astern for rescue work when the Frontenac was torpedoed.
At 12:00 Bic Island (24) whom I was anxious about, rejoined convoy. She may have stopped when Kosmos was torpedoed to pick up survivors.
14:10 - Position 55 5N 26 30W, a Liberator closed Convoy and reported a submarine 10 miles ahead. The S.O.E. also reported submarines shadowing. Course was altered at 1?:50 to 108° at 20:00 (54 53N 25 18W) to 084° and at 01:00/29 to 069°. Speed of Convoy on latter course estimated at 4-5 knots to gale and heavy head sea.
Run 160 miles.

Oct. 29
01:20 - (55N 23 51W) Pan New York (42) was torpedoed on her port side forward and her cargo of gasoline caught fire.
At about 04:15 Bic Island (24) was torpedoed. No further news was received of this ship and it was believed she must have sunk. Nothing was seen of this incident from 61, though some snow flakes were observed in 24's direction. Owing to the gale, they went very badly, most of them being blown down into the sea. The gale increased in strength in the morning, and at daylight, course was altered to 079° to bring the sea? slightly on the bow. As a result, the ships did make better weather(?) of it.
Weather moderate in the forenoon.
P.M. -The S.O.E. informed me submarines were still about. With his approval, I accordingly signalled following course for the night:
22:00 a/c to 119°, 01:00/30 to 89°, 04:00/30 to 059°, and 08:00/30 to 079°.
The Southern Princess (33) was placed between 9 and 10 columns, this being the safest side in view of the moon. No. 1 column was left with three ships, but 2, 3 and 4 with only two ships, so that a submarine carrying out a browning? attack would have a large expanse of sea free of ships to put her torpedoes into.
Run 136 miles.

Oct. 30
All alterations were carried out as planned and appear to have been successful as the night was without incident and the weather improving all the time.
Apparently the escort had attacked a submarine close astern of Convoy at 20:30/29, but nothing was seen of it from 61, and the S.O.E. did not inform me of this incident until the 31st. Speed was increased to 9 1/4 knots at daylight.
Run 177 miles.

Oct. 31
I informed Convoy of the figures for survivors so far as I knew them, and also signalled that the conduct of the Convoy under very trying conditions had been excellent. Colours were hoisted and lowered to half mast for five minutes at noon.
Run 211 miles.

Nov. 1
Loch Ewe, Oban and Clyde portions were detached at requisite. The Belfast section reached Bangor at 17:00.
Run 266 miles.

Total distance: New York to Belfast - 2961 miles.
Average speed: 8.69 knots.

Commodore's comments re. attacks on HX 212:
The position of the moon was in favour of browning(?) attacks from the port side of the convoy, and weather was very much against the escort.

From W/T signals and from reports I received from other ships in the vicinity of the ships hit, there appears to be no doubt that the Sourabaya, Frontenac and Gurney E. Newlin were torpedoed practically simultaneously, during the first attack at 12:10/27. It looks, therefore, as if this was in the nature of a browning(?) attack from a position off the port bow of the convoy. As the submarine was not sighted from No. 1 column she may have been some distance out, say 2000 yards. Had she been closer sufficient spread could not have been obtained. They can hardly have been shots at individual ships as with columns 4 cables apart a submarine in a position to take a deliberate shot at Frontenac would have been too distant to do so on the Sourabaya.

It is possible that the submarine had seen the lights of the three neutrals and closed to investigate, thus blundering into the convoy. The second attack, when Kosmos was sunk at 03:45, may easily have been the work of the same submarine. Had more than one been present our losses would probably have been higher.

Attacks during night 28th/29th
The two attacks at 01:20/29th and 04:15 were probably also the work of one submarine. The Pan New York was struck before the bridge port side. I am positive as to this as I had a good view of the vessel in the flames(?). The submarine probably fired a salvo so that the convoy got off lightly on this occasion. The convoy was only making 4-5 knots so the submarine could well have proceeded submerged at maximum speed to take up a position for her second attack. Here again a salvo must have been fired so that the convoy was again lucky to get off with only one ship sunk. (The Commodore does not seem to be aware that Barrwhin was also sunk).

General remarks.
In view of the large diversion made on the afternoon and night of the 29th I am completely in the dark as to how the submarine concerned in the attacks of the night 28/29 was able to cut off the convoy. I can only suggest the following possibilities:

R/V - The S.O.E. of escort made in my opinion excessive use of R/V throughout the voyage. In fact it was scarcely ever silent. If the enemy can ? on that wave, he has endless opportunities. Apart from this, the way R/V was used must have the affect of preventing Commanding Officers of Escorts attending to their proper work. Had I myself been one, my set would have had a bad breakdown.

On the afternoon of the 28th the S.O.E. went off some 20 miles to hunt a submarine reported by Liberator. Whilst away he gave me some information and ? for night intentions. I made out a message which was coded for sending in the proper way. This may have been read if the code and transposition table were in the possession of the enemy.

The Badger was short of oil fuel and during the critical time could not refuel on account of weather, so was not available to carry out a search(?) astern which might have forced a shadower down, and saved us the second night's attacks(?).

(The last paragraph, concerning Barrwhin, has too many illegible words for me to attempt).

Continue to my page about Frontenac
Continue to my page about Kosmos II

Back to Convoy Index

To the next HX convoy in my list HX 213


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