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CONVOY ON 14 – U.K.-Norway

The report also contains some details on the Norway-U.K. Convoy HN 14.

Left Methil Roads on Febr. 17-1940 - diverted to Kirkwall, left Febr. 20
Arrived Norway on Febr. 22
The report that I've summarized was received from Tony Cooper, England (from Public Records Office, Kew).
Names of ships in the convoy were received from Don Kindell - His source: The late Arnold Hague's research.

Considerable enemy activity was reported following the Cossack-Altmark affair. Convoy ON 14 was ordered into Kirkwall on the 18th, until a heavy covering force (Rodney, Hood, and Warspite) arrived in the area. ON 14 sailed again on Febr. 20.

According to Arnold Hague, the following ships were in this convoy:

British Baron Kelvin (note that this ship is also mentioned in the report re Convoy HN 14 further down on this page)
Finnish Canopus
Finnish Ceres
British Clarissa Radcliffe
British Crown Arun (via Kirkwall)
Norwegian Delfinus
Norwegian Eikhaug
Finnish Elsa S (also shows up in ON 16)
British Fintra (also listed in ON 16 - see report below)
British Flowergate
Swedish Gallia
Norwegian Iris
British Kirnwood (arr. Narvik Febr. 29)
Finnish Kotka
British Margo
Swedish Oddevold (also listed in the next convoy, ON 15)
Finnish Rosenborg
Norwegian Snefjeld
Norwegian Vardø
Norwegian Varegg
Norwegian Vesta
British Vina
British Warlaby

The report below also mentions Fairweather.

A document listing all the ON convoys says Convoy ON 14 consisted of 10 British, 7 Norwegian, 1 Swedish, 5 Finnish, and 1 Estonian ship (1 was detached - not bound for Norway).

Some of the Norwegian ships in this convoy are listed on this website - they can be reached via the Master Ship Index.

HMS Escapade left Rosyth at 14:00 on Febr. 17-1940, accompanied by HMS Escort and HMS Eclipse, joined by HMS Electra and the sub Narwhal on arrival off Methil at 15:30. The convoy weighed at 16:00 and the ships were all in station before dark, with Escapade on the starboard bow and Narwhal 2 cables on the starboard beam of the starboard wing ship.

During the following day, Febr. 18, the convoy proceeded at 7 1/2 knots in good weather. At 14:00 Eclipse received a signal from an aircraft reporting survivors on a raft bearing 180° 8 miles, and she was ordered to pick them up, then rejoin the convoy at full speed, doing so before 17:00. It turned out the raft had contained 2 dead men, who were buried at sea. That afternoon, the Admiralty ordered the Convoy and HMS Escort to proceed to Kirkwall, and course was altered at once for that destination (considerable enemy activity was reported following the Cossack-Altmark affair. Convoy ON 14 was ordered into Kirkwall until a heavy covering force - Rodney, Hood, and Warspite - arrived in the area). HMS Electra was sent 30 miles to the south with orders to make the expected time of arrival of ON 14 at Kirkwall and rejoin at full speed. Electra rejoined at 21:00; the convoy arrived in Shapinsay Sound at midnight. The night (Febr. 19) was clear and calm, with a bright moon. N.O.I.C. Kirkwall had 7 drifters waiting in the entrance which led the convoy into the anchorage, while 2 A/S trawlers assisted the destroyers to patrol to seaward of the convoy. The entire convoy was in the harbour by 02:00, followed by Escapade, which anchored at 02:20.

During the following night (leading up to Febr. 20) Escapade was informed that Fairweather had arrived and was to join the convoy. Escapade left harbour at 14:00 with the escort and sub, in a full southwesterly gale, with heavy rain and a visibility of 1 mile. The convoy ships were very slow in coming out, and the British Fintra, 1st ship in the starboard column, did not show up, so the Norwegian Delfinus was ordered to take her place. "This ship can read and send morse and repeats all flag signals, she made a better convoy leader that S.S. Fintra". The leading ships were allowed to proceed at 6 knots, as they could not steer at less speed, being in ballast, and as a result the convoy was rather strung out as darkness set in. By 22:00 the convoy was on course 035° for the night and had closed up well.

The gale began to ease up by 01:00 (Febr. 21), but at 06:00 fog was encountered. This cleared for half an hour at about 09:00 and 12:00 to visibility 1/2 mile, and each time the ships closed up well. At 15:50 that afternoon, 2 explosions were felt (the convoy was just running out of the fog at that time), and Escapade turned and went to the rear, but regained her station having found all the ships and escorts in their places. At 17:00 HMS Edinburgh and HMS Arethusa were sighted on the starboard bow (Edinburgh had fired 2 charges at 15:50), then at 17:20 HMS Cairo joined, taking station ahead. The convoy ran into fog again soon afterwards and Cairo, which had informed Escapade that she would go ahead during the night to make a landfall, was not seen again that night.

By 01:00, Febr. 22, the wind was freshening from the southwest, but visibility remained under 5 cables. A full gale was blowing by 06:00, and it was raining hard, with visibility under 1 mile. Course at that time was 120°, running down towards Holmengrå Light. The weather had cleared somewhat by 07:00, and Escapade decided to go in, altering course to 090°. Edinburgh and Arethusa were sighted ahead at 07:45. Escapade received a signal that her position at 07:30 had been 225° Holmengrå Light 12 miles by soundings and D/F fix and immediate action was necessary, so the convoy leaders were ordered to alter course to 050°, then to 010°, and as the visibility was closing down, Escapade went back to pass the signal to the near ships, and to collect Eclipse and Narwhal. She got back to the head of the convoy just before 09:00 to sight an island 1/2 mile on the starboard bow. The island had a beacon on it, but the Commanding Officer of Escapade could not recognize it, nor could Delfinus. Convoy course was now altered to 335°, then as more rocks and islands were appearing close ahead, to 270°, which proved to be just in time as the visibility closed down to 2 cables immediately afterwards. The ships all altered course to the west and went slow. Escapade collected Narwhal and the escort, having decided to remain in the present position to wait for better visibility. Shortly after 10:00 Cairo was sighted, giving her estimated position as 255° Utvær Light 4 miles, which fit in well with the islands that had been seen, the first island being Storsvala on the north side of the fjord. Cairo suggested that the ships should be led in, and Escapade and Electra proceeded to do so, while Cairo, Narwhal, Escort and Eclipse patrolled off the entrance. There was still a full gale, with heavy rain and a rough sea, visibility 1/2 mile. Escapade collected 2 ships, Electra 3, leading them to the entrace, but visibility decreased as the shore was approached and the ships would not go in. Escapade then rejoined Cairo, and soon afterwards Electra rejoined, with S.S. Kirnwood following her. Cairo ordered Electra to have another try at getting Kirnwood in. She proceeded and did not regain contact.

Named within report above - see also this document, listing escorts for all HN and ON convoys, as well as this external site (scroll down to Febr. 17).

Continuing HMS Escapade's report (re Convoy HN 14):
I'm assuming here, that the escort duty for ON 14 was now completed, and that the same escort vessels were to rendezvous with Convoy HN 14 in order to escort it to the U.K., because the rest of the report appears to be for that convoy, which left Norway on Febr. 22-1940 and arrived Methil on the 26th. A document listing all the HN convoys states that 22 of 37 ships returned to Bergen, 15 sailed, 5 were bound for the west coast.

The early diversion of ON 14 to Kirkwall had enabled the N.C.S.O. at Bergen to receive a message in time to postpone the departure of HN 14, but heavy fog prevented them from seeing the escort at the appointed rendezvous on Febr. 22. A sweep carried out by the escort to find the convoy was unsuccessful, and in the end 22 out of the 37 ships returned to Bergen, as mentioned. HMS Electra eventually met up with the majority of the remaining ships and the escort was reformed.

The Commanding Officer of Escapade did not consider it likely that the ships in Convoy HN 14 for England would come out, and felt that they (the escorts) should remain off the entrance until dark, proceed to the west for the night, then return at daylight, and Cairo agreed to this plan. One of the ships from Convoy HN 14, the Estonian Peet, was spotted at 16:20, signalling that the others were to the west of her. Cairo was turning 180° at that time, and the destroyers were regaining their stations ahead of her, Escort having lost contact. Escapade had to turn in order to inform Cairo and the destroyers, and in doing so, she lost contact with Peet. They searched for the convoy until dark, then proceeded to the west. At around 19:00 a signal was received saying several ships of HN 14 had been sighted steering to the southwest, making it clear that this convoy had indeed come out.

At 06:00, Febr. 23, Cairo and the destroyers spread to visibility distance (1 mile) and swept back towards Holmengrå Light on the line the ships would have taken to reach point 61 00N 00 15W, but no ships were seen. Later that morning, at 11:00, Escapade was ordered by Cairo to proceed to this position at full speed with Eclipse, in the hopes of intercepting the ships there. At 15:00 that afternoon, Escapade encountered the Danish Ringhorn and Inga (the wrong nationality is given for Ringhorn; which was Norwegian. She was among the ships that returned to Bergen when in HN 14), then searched at 25 knots on course 190° from the turning point, finding no more ships. She then turned at 19:30 to meet HMS Electra and the convoy.

Early in the morning of Febr. 24, Escapade sighted Electra and 4 ships ahead. The wind had altered to north/northwest by then, blowing a gale force, with extreme visibility between snow storms. Edinburgh, Arethusa, Escort and Escapade proceeded east to locate stragglers, finding 7 ships astern, which hove to the minute they saw the escorts, but eventually 6 of them were persuaded to come on, and a convoy of 10 ships was formed.

Electra and Eclipse were detached to the westward at about 04:00, Febr. 25, together with the British Baron Kelvin and Norw. Tora Elise (note that A. Hague has Baron Kelvin in Convoy ON 14 - see top of this page. I believe this should be Baron Blythswood, which is listed in HN 14). Later that morning (07:36? this page of the document is very blurry), HMS Inglefield and Imogen were sighted on the starboard beam. At this time Escapade was on the port bow of the convoy, with Escort on the starboard bow and Narwhal abreast the leading ship of the port column. At 07:55(?) Narwhal signalled a "suspicious object", and Escapade immediately turned to port and increased to full speed, sighting a U-boat on the surface a few moments later (bearing and distance are given, but not legible). At that time, the weather was calm with a swell from the north. The U-boat disappeared in the trough of the swell but was plainly visible on the crest. In the hopes of getting closer, Escapade did not open fire, as the U-boat was attempting to signal her using what appeared to be an Aldis lamp. When within 5000-6000 yards, the U-boat submerged, while Escapade ran on for another three minutes, then commenced transmitting. Almost at once contact was obtained bearing 335° distance 900 yards and she turned to attack, but contact was lost during this turn, the ship still having considerable way on her. She dropped a calcium flare by plot, ran on and turned at 1200 yards in order to attack again. Contact was regained at 1000 yards, and a second attack was commenced on course 130°.

Meanwhile, Inglefield, Escort and Imogen had followed at high speed and were within a mile and a half of Escapade when her first attack was started. Seeing these ships coming up astern so fast caused her to run on too long at high speed, hoping to be the ship to deliver the first successful attack, and contact was lost. She hauled down her contact and attacking flags, but hoisted them again when on course 130°. Inglefield then steered to pass under her stern, but when she (Escapade) turned 180° it brough her (Inglefield) right ahead, passing over Escapade's contact. The interference from Inglefield's transmissions and wake made Escapade's second attack impossible. All 4 destroyers were then within 1000 yards of the calcium flare. At about 08:30 Escort obtained contact and went straight in to attack. Inglefield and Imogen also obtained contacts near the position of the calcium flare. Inglefield then formed the 4 destroyers in line abreast and commenced a sweep. The U-boat surfaced again at around 09:50, and this time Escapade was the furthest away. Inglefield, Imogen and Escort had boats down picking up survivors* while Escapade was ordered to rejoin the convoy, being in station ahead of the convoy by 11:45. (Escapade was under the orders of Inglefield between 12:30 on Febr. 25 and 10:00 on the 26th).

* This U-boat would have been U-63, which was sunk Febr. 25-1940, 1 casualty, 24 survivors - see this external page.

At 10:00 on Febr. 26 Escapade was ordered to proceed to Rosyth, in a full gale from the south causing a short, steep sea. She had under 20% of oil remaining and bumped badly at speeds exceeding 15 knots. After passing Buchan Ness the wind and sea eased, enabling her to do 18 knots, and she anchored in E 2 berth below the bridge at 23:15.

Named within report above - see also this document, listing escorts for all HN and ON convoys, as well as this external page (scroll down to text under Febr. 22).

Back to Convoy Index

To the next ON convoy (U.K.-Norway) in my list ON 15
To the next HN convoy (Norway-U.K.) in my list HN 15
To List of all U.K.-Norway Convoys


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