Site Map | Search |Merchant Fleet Main Page | Home 

Available Discussion Forums

CONVOY HX 99 - Page 2
Advance Sailing Telegram

Received from Roger Griffiths - His source: Public Records Office, Kew.

Commodore's notes:
Station keeping was "satisfactory considering the weather conditions and the very long nights with ships totally darkened, but no ships in column ever kept a correct 2 cables distance from their next ahead. Karabagh and Alderpool were about the worst offenders. It was very satisfactory the way that ships which got separated from the convoy due to fog and weather conditions, etc. managed to rejoin.

Visual signalling mostly rather slow in flag work. Morse work satisfactory. W/T - no complaints. Message received from Alaunia that W/T operator in Olympos was a suspected Nazi, so I ordered her to seal her office.

After the first few nights at sea all darkened ship very satisfactorily. E. H. Powell (Master of Belgian Thysville) had an anxious and trying voyage with internee passengers and other (administrative?) difficulties, and his ship did very well(?) both at signalling and station keeping. M/V Penrith Castle (Master E. M. Sc..?) was a very comfortable and suitable ship for the Commodore and his staff. She has good accommodation, and the officers gave me every assistance possible, but she cannot go at a slower speed on both engines than 8 knots and, on this voyage, she had no 3rd Mate so that the 1st and 2nd Officers had to keep watch and watch which is too? much of a strain to expect in convoy in war time.

H. MacKinnon (Master of the West Ekonk) is deserving of great praise. His ship is one of those bought from America and was laden with steel and scrap. He reported, after about 4 days that his compass was out of order, but he managed to stick to the convoy throughout the different varieties of weather experienced and arrived safely".

Suggestions for improvements:
"No fresh suggestions beyond those I have put forward previously.
The 6" signalling lamp, worked off the ship's lighting mains has proved very useful, especially as both batteries for my Aldis lamp have been giving trouble. The 6" lamp suffers from certian small defects which should not be difficult to rectify. After being in use for a little time the mirror becomes stiff on its pivots and it is quite (?) work to signal with it. A longer "trigger", giving more leverage, would be an improvement and, perhaps, some different oil or grease from that supplied should be used on the mirror pivots."

Commodore's narrative of voyage:

"The conference was held at Halifax at 10:30 26 December 1940, and the Commodore and his Naval staff embarked immediately afterwards in M/V Penrith Castle. There was some slight delay in the convoy sailing owing to the long time taken by the agents in sending the Masters onboard their ships. The weather was clear and the convoy, consisting of 13 ships, formed up before dark. S/S Alderpool was late in sailing and did not actually get into station in the convoy until the night of 28th-29th December. This made 14 ships out of Halifax.

The Bermuda section were 4 hours late at the R/V on 29th December and Alaunia went to look for them in the forenoon and afternoon of that day while the Halifax section reduced speed and turned Northward after passing through the R/V position. Alaunia rejoined the Halifax section at 16:00, on this same day, without any Bermuda ships.

It rained torrentially during the first watch on the 29th Decr. and, when the rain ceased, the convoy ran into fog which persisted until 10:00 31st December. During this period the Bermuda ships' whistles were heard at intervals, but, when the fog lifted, only 13 ships of the convoy were in sight and many of these were almost on the horizon. Of these 13 ships 2 (Duke of Athens and Blankaholm) belonged to the Bermuda section and A. D. Huff, Teneriffa and Cape Nelson were missing from the Halifax section. Of these latter only A. D. Huff rejoined the convoy later.

Alaunia left the convoy at 09:00 1st January 1941 to search for the missing ships, and she found 5 of the Bermuda section ahead. These were Kinross, Daytonian, Cowrie, Abraham Lincoln and Rokos Vergottis. They were in station by 13:30 1st Jany. in 52 10N 42 55W. Later Alaunia reported Karabagh and A. D. Huff 25 miles astern and Teneriffa 15 miles away on the port beam. Teneriffa never rejoined convoy but Karabagh and A. D. Huff caught up and were in station by 16:00 4th Jany. in 58 54N 30 28W. A. D. Huff had had some engine room defects.

Convoy encountered a gale from the N. W. in the early hours of 4th January and only 6 ships were in close convoy at daylight (08:00), but by 11:00 all 20 ships were in sight, many nearly on the horizon, and 16 ships were in station by 15:00. All 20 ships were in station by 07:30 the following morning although there was still a gale blowing with frequent sleet storms.

An alteration of route was received on 5th January taking the convoy further North than the previous one did, and star sights placed the ship 32 miles ahead of where she should have been to reach the R/V at programme time. This was largely due to a S.W'ly gale and it was difficult to waste the necessary time as this ship is a motor ship and she cannot do less than 8 knots on both engines, and, in the weather prevailing, large alterations of course were undesirable owing to a deck cargo of aeroplanes etc. which might have been damaged very easily.

Porpoise parted company at 15:00 5th January in 60 20N 25 20W in a S.W.'ly gale and Alaunia left the following morning at 08:00 in 61 12N 21 20W and it was found possible to turn the convoy 100° to port (to 330°) for an hour and a half, to waste time, though the master of the ship was very nervous of his cargo. The wind moderated on the afternoon of 6th January but no sights could be obtained that evening, or the following morning, which complicated the question of making the R/V at 09:00 GMT 7th January.

Eastern Star dropped astern with a hot bearing at 20:00 6th Jany. without making any signal and was out of sight by the morning, but she rejoined the convoy at 08:20 8th Jany. in 60 20N 10 37W.

Convoy was late at R/V position, but contact was made with HMS La Malouise at 12:30 7th Jany. in 60 25N 16W and, later, HM ships Anemone, Shikari and Sardonix joined up.

Further alterations of route were received on the 7th and the 8th and Escort Trawler Lady Elsa joined up at 15:00 8th Jan 59 50N 9 30W. Sunderland flying boat was also first seen at 09:20 (GMT) on 8th January in 60 20N 10 37W and she remained with the convoy during daylight hours and also on the 9th. At one time in the afternoon of the 9th there were two in attendance. Friendly aircraft flew over the convoy several times during the night and early morning and also during the daytime until the arrival of the convoy.

It is thought that one of the escort vessels dropped 3 depth charges at 12:30 9th Jany. in 57 05N 9 00W and another at 15:41 on the same day in 56 47N 8 29W, but she was a long way off and they were not felt very distinctly.

The Oban section consisted of 7 ships - Tower Field, Warkworth, A. D. Huff, Duke of Athens, Karabagh, Alderpool and Kinross - parted company at 18:15 9th January 1941 in 57 05N 8 7W and proceeded to Oban with the Master of Tower Field (Master W. V. Smith) in charge.

Two outward bound convoys were passed in the North Channel, one off Rathlin Island at 07:00 and the other in 55 8N 5 48W at 08:50 10th January 1941.

At 19:30 10th January in 53 46N 5 8W Ittersum (Swansea), Yselhaven (Barry Roads) and Cowrie (Holyhead) parted company under the escort of HM trawler Derby County, which met them in this position.

At 23:20 10th Jan., whilst heading for anchorage in Moelfre Bay, warning was received that enemy aircraft were operating South of the Isle of Man and HX 99 B was ordered to proceed West of 5° W so course was altered by "two red light" method 180° and convoy proceeded to sea again. Earlier on this same evening a troop (?*) convoy was passed proceeding to the North Westward with certainly one cruiser escort.

The leading ship of the ten now remaining in convoy, Penrith Castle, Aelybryn, Eastern Star, Daytonian, West Ekonk, Olympos?*, Thysville, Abraham Lincoln, Blankaholm and Rokos Vergottis passed buoy at outer end of the swept channel at 10:15 11th January 1941 and the convoy dispersed at 12:15".

* These are the Commodore's own question marks.

Back to Page 1 - Advance Sailing Telegram

Back to Convoy Index

To the next HX Convoy in my list HX 100


 Site Map | Search |Merchant Fleet Main Page | Home