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Convoy ON 159
Commodore Rawling's Narrative of Passage
(Commodore's ship: Norwegian Laurits Swenson)

Back to Page 1 - cruising order & Commodore's notes ON 159

Jan. 4-1943
08:10 GMT - Sailed from Liverpool having picked up foul anchor, 14 ships and 1 coastwise ship in company.

Jan. 5
11:00 GMT - 17 ships and escort joined at R/V off Oversay, total number of ships in convoy now 31, number of escort, 10.

Jan. 8
Very heavy South Westerly gale, ship rolling very heavily and very difficult to steer on account of her lightness. H.M. Ships Tay, Jonquil and Coreopsis parted company at 16:45 GMT to joined convoy No. SC 115. H.M.S. Vanessa became S.O. of escort. Convoy very scattered by gale. U.S. ship Lafayette dropped astern.

Jan. 9
Reduced speed to 8 knots to enable convoy to close up.
18:30 GMT - Convoy closed up, speed increased to 9.5 knots.
19:00 GMT - U.S. ship Lafayette rejoined.

Jan. 12
13:40 GMT - Catalina was sighted ahead of convoy.

Jan. 13
Very heavy Westerly gale, ship being difficult to steer and pounding badly. During the night U.S. ship Lafayette dropped stern.

Jan. 14 (the page giving narrative for Jan. 14 through the 20th is very blurry, hence some question marks)
Very heavy West North Westerly gale. U.S. ship Lafayette missing from convoy. British John A. Brown dropped astern with one cylinder out of action.
17:30 GMT - H.M.C. ships Columbia, Barrie, Saskatoon and Kenora joined the convoy.
17:55 GMT - H.M. ships Vanessa and Vimy in company with ocean? corvettes left for Argentia. On Jan. 13th I was informed at 18:33? GMT that H.M.C. ship Columbia and two ships from St. John's were due to rendezvous with me at 11:00 GMT on the 14th in position 47 22N 50 08W. We were ahead of this position and it was impossible to ease down in the gale as ships would not steer.

Jan. 15
12:00 GMT - The two St. John's ships were 30 miles astern of convoy. I gave them orders to cut the corner and steer for the next day's noon rendezvous, which would save them 30 miles steaming and bring them ahead of us. This they did not do.
12:27 GMT - Sighted Catalina Aircraft.

Jan. 16
Two St. John's ships 24 miles astern. West/northwesterly gale, convoy only making 5 knots. Heard that U.S. ship Lafayette was making for Halifax with engine trouble.

Jan. 17
15:52 GMT - Sighted air escort. Weather moderated.
15:54? GMT - The H.M.C. ships Hepatica, New Westminster and Grandmere joined convoy.
16:00 GMT - British ship Daghestan with British ships Cairnvalona, Copeland and Rapana parted company for Halifax.
16:32 GMT - H.M.C. ships Columbia, Barrie and Saskatoon left for Halifax.

Jan. 18
Weather fine, making good speed.
11:34 GMT - Sighted air patrol.
20:48 GMT - In position 40 57N 64 35W the following were detached: British ships Solarium, Standella, San Vulfrano, and the Norwegian ship Strinda for Guantanamo, Norwegian ship Polarsol and British ship Diloma for Houston. The two St. John's ships, British ship North Gaspe and Norwegian ship Lista who were over 30 miles astern of convoy were ordered to return to Halifax.

Jan. 19
Sighted one aircraft.

Jan. 20
Sighted one aircraft. Arrived New York.

This has been an uneventful and I should say, a lucky convoy. We must have passed through submarine areas between Latitudes 53? degrees and58? degrees North and Longitudes 20? degrees and 40 degrees West. At noon on the 18th January submarine was sighted in our noon position of the 17th.

We had three very bad gales. The one on the 8th reached hurricane force with waves of forty feet one of which damaged a lifeboat. I had great difficulty in keeping the convoy together. My ship, the Norwegian Laurits Swenson was very much on the light side and could have done with more ballast. With a gale on the bow she would not steer and revolutions had to be greatly increased to keep steerage way on her.

U.S. Ship Lafayette was too light and her propeller raced badly in the gale and she became a straggler and finally had to put into Halifax with engine trouble. This ship should not have been sent out to cross the Atlantic in winter so badly trimmed. The British ship Cairnvalona also suffered from propeller racing with a heavy sea, another case of bad trimming.

The west/northwesterly gale of great severity prevented St. John's ships joining up with us at R/V for 13th. Owing to the high seas it was impossible to ease down for these ships to catch up, it being dangerous to lose steerage way. It was equally impossible to give an accurate rendezvous for any time ahead as speed of convoy varied from 8 to 10 knots according to the wind which was very varied.

I cannot speak too highly of the all-round excellence of station keeping and signalling was of a high order helped very much by the high standard of my own V/S and W/T staff.

I found the Norwegian M.V. Laurits Swenson a most excellent Commodore's ship, the Captain and officers being most efficient and helpful in every way, but I would suggest that another 2,000 tons of sand ballast would make her a perfect leader of a convoy.

I consider that those responsible for routing and re-routing us across the Atlantic are much to be congratulated.

I still consider that the Battle of the Atlantic is largely an air problem, and, until the Atlantic is sufficiently patrolled by very many aircraft well loaded with depth charges, to harry submarines on every occasion our sinkings will not decrease. When crossing the Atlantic at the present time it is a rare thing to sight an aircraft.

Convoys are the bait and suitable aircraft should be provided with all despatch to guard them.

Signed, Commodore H. C. Rawlings, R.N.R.

Page 1 - cruising order ON 159

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