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Convoy SLS 64

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Convoy SLS 64 Cruising Order
Departed Freetown on Jan. 30-1941, dispersed on Febr. 12 (Arnold Hague agrees w/19 ships).
List received from Roy Martin, England

Br=British, Norw=Norwegian, Gr=Greek

† = dead

Sunk - 20
Sunk - 36
Sunk - 5
Sunk - 31
Empire Energy
Nailsea Lass
Sunk - 5
Anna Mazaraki
Sunk - 14
Oswestry Grange
Sunk - 5
Also, Derrynane - station not known. Sunk with the loss of all men, see text below (as well as this thread on my Ship Forum).

Commodore was Captain Murray of Warlaby, Vice Commodore was captain of Margot.

The slaughter of SLS 64
By Roy Martin

Roy's information has been supplemented with info on ships sunk found in:
"Axis Submarine Successes of World War Two", Jürgen Rohwer
"The Allied Convoy System" Arnold Hague
"The World's Merchant Fleets", R. W. Jordan.
"Lloyd's War Losses", Vol I.

Febr. 11-1941:
Margot (Vice Commodore) - Noon position 35 20N, 21 50W - Commodore astern.
06:00 Commodore back with convoy in 37 25N, 21 30W.

Stragglers – Empire Energy, Nailsea Lass*, Bur, Varangberg and Kalliopi.

*Nailsea Lass (ex SLS 63), on a voyage from Calcutta and Table Bay for Oban and London with 1301 tons of charcoal, 1031 tons pig iron and general, as well as 300 tons of iron ore (bottom badly fouled), was later sunk on Febr. 24 by U-48. She had a crew of 36, 29 of whom were saved, 5 died, and 2 taken prisoners - see also this external page, as well as this page.

Febr. 12:
06:05 - Margot sights strange Man o' War.

06:25 - Admiral Hipper opens fire on Shrewsbury at 3000 yards; Commodore makes signal T4 – all ships altered course (Margot and Blairatholl altered early). Hipper then attacked in order: Warlaby, Derrynane, Westbury, Perseus, Borgestad, Lornaston and Oswestry Grange. Derrynane, Borgestad and Lornaston had opened fire on the enemy and received "very heavy punishment". Derrynane and Borgestad sank with all hands and Lornaston was badly damaged. Borgestad appeared to hit the control tower of the Hipper.

07:45 - Hipper attacked Margot. Blairatholl rescued 86 from four ships, Polyktor rescued 21 from Perseus.

Ships damaged by Admiral Hipper:
Clunepark - arrived Funchal, joined HG 54.
Lornaston - arrived Azores? arrived Funchal?*, joined SL 65 (external link).
Ainderbury (mis-spelling of Ainderby?) - arrived Funchal. This ship is not listed as being part of SLS 64 (according to A. Hague, this ship was in Rio on Febr. 13-1941, having arrived there on Febr. 2, go to this external page and use Ainderby as keyword at "Ship Search").

* PRO list of convoy SLS 64 says this vessel made Azores whilst another source (Slader) says Funchal.

Ships sunk by Admiral Hipper Febr. 12 (approx. 37 10N 21 20W):
(ex SLS 63), on a voyage from Rosario for the U.K. with 3101 tons wheat and 4250 tons linseed, had a crew of 38 and 1 gunner - 20 crew died, named at this external page. (Shelled and torpedoed by Admiral Hipper).

Commodore Vessel Warlaby (ex SL 63), on a voyage from Alexandria for Oban with 4457 tons meal, 2827 tons cotton seed and 125 tons oil cake, had a crew of 38 and 1 gunner - 35 crew and the gunner died, named at link above. Captain Murray was killed on the bridge (see also the text under Febr. 12 in this report for HG 53).

Derrynane, on a voyage from Lourenco Marques for Immingham with 8219 tons of iron ore, had a crew of 36, incl. 1 gunner - there were no survivors. Vessel blew up. A message in this thread on my Ship Forum has a list of casualties. Again, see also external link above.

Westbury was on a voyage from Alexandria for the U.K. with 4615 tons of cotton seed, 3439 tons cotton cake, 198 tons onions and 13 tons garlic. She had a crew of 37 and 1 gunner - 5 crew died (also named at external link above).

Perseus (ex SLS 63), on a voyage from Alexandria for Belfast and Devonport (cargo unknown), had a crew of 36, 14 of whom died (named at link above). Survivors rescued from raft on Febr. 13 in 37 14N 21 8W.

Borgestad (Rear Commodore?), on a voyage from Port Sudan and Table Bay for Liverpool with a cargo of cotton, had a crew of 31 - all of whom died. They are named on my page about Borgestad

Oswestry Grange (ex SL 63), on a voyage from Rosario for Liverpool with 7368 tons of general cargo, had a crew of 42, 5 of whom were missing (named at external link mentioned above). The 37 survivors were landed at Madeira. The ship was on fire when last seen, presumed sunk.

Bur arrived Ponta Delgada (Norwegian sources say she arrived St. Miguel on Febr. 18 - follow the link to Bur) - listed in SL 65 (external link, returned? Again, go to my page about Bur).
Anna Mazaraki (ex SLS 63) arrived Funchal - joined Convoy HG 54
Blairatholl arrived Funchal (Master awarded George Medal) - joined HG 54
Polyktor arrived Funchal - joined HG 54.
Kalliopi arrived Gibraltar - listed in Convoy HG 55.
Varangberg (ex SLS 63) - Norwegian sources say she arrived Gibraltar on Febr. 17. This ship is also listed in HG 54.
Empire Energy (ex SLS 63) arrived Barry Roads Febr. 27.
Margot (Vice Commodore) arrived Funchal (Master awarded George Medal) - listed in HG 54
Volturno arrived Funchal - later joined HG 54.

 Other ships involved, but not listed as being in SLS 64: 
(see ADM199/2186)

Gairsoppa was due to sail in SL 64 (external link - here's A. Hague's listing) but was short of fuel and detached for Galway; voyage Calcutta-London with 2600 tons pig iron, 1765 tons tea, and 2369 tons general, as well as silver ingots. Sunk by U-101 on Febr. 17. She had a crew of 83 and 2 gunners, 84 of whom died, the 2nd mate being the only survivor. The 2nd mate and 2 bodies were washed ashore near the Lizard on March 1. Casualty list is available at the first external link to SL 64 above. (See also this external page)

Seaforth is said to have sailed in SL 64, but this must be an error? (she is, however, listed in the much earlier Convoy SL 54). She was on a voyage Monrovia-Liverpool with West African produce when she was sunk by U-103 on Febr. 18 (this external page has more info; it'll be noticed that no convoy is mentioned). She had a crew of 47, 2 gunners and 10 passengers - no survivors.

Dartford (straggler - which convoy? Another error? This ship was, in fact, on her way to Halifax when this acitivity took place - is it a misinterpretation of HMS Deptford, escorting HG 53? See this report).
Also, Dutch Terkolei (included in A. Hague's listing for SL 64, but spelt differently).

British Petrol sent distress message 12/2 11:46 "convoy being shelled several ships sunk or sinking" (a ship by this name had been sunk by the German raider Widder already in June-1940 - was there another ship by the same name later on?).

What were instructions to stragglers? As Empire Energy made Avonmouth and Nailsea Lass was 60' West of Fastnet (or 60' SW), were instructions to make for SW England without closing French coast? Master of Warlaby was killed in action as was the Second Officer. Chief Officer survived and made report as did the Master of the Iceland who was held prisoner on Hipper (Iceland had been in Convoy HG 53 - see also D/S Tejo).


Captain Donald A MacDonald, Master of Blairatholl - George Medal, 12 Feb 1941. SLS 64
Captain Ivor L Price O.B.E., Master of Margot - George Medal 12 Feb 1941, SLS 64
Mr Vassilios Michas (Greek), 1st Officer Michael L Embiricos - George Medal 10 Mar 1941 (this ship is listed in Convoy SLS 65, external page).

The captain of Borgestad was posthumously awarded the highest ranked Norwegian decoration Krigskorset for his actions during this battle.

 Some of the HM ships in Freetown: 

Arawa (escort of SL 64) AMC (=Armed Merchant Cruiser).

Norfolk (cruiser)
Dorsetshire (cruiser)
Delhi (cruiser)
Dunedin (cruiser)

Milford (sloop)

Asphodel (corvette) - Built for convoy escort
Cyclamen (corvette) - Built for convoy escort
Clematis (corvette) - Built for convoy escort
Calendula (corvette) - Built for convoy escort

Plus about 5 trawlers and 5 a/s trawlers some of whom formed the local escort.

OBV's Camito and Calvino (Cavina?) came to the scene [from Gibraltar?] [ex Elders Fyffes?]

The Navy could hardly plead that they were short of ships to escort the two convoys – especially as they had four corvettes (which were built for this duty) and sundry trawlers and a Sloop. As they knew that Hipper was at sea, you would have thought that they would have rushed a brace of cruisers up there as well. Nineteen ships sailed in this unescorted convoy, seven were sunk by Hipper, a further seven sought refuge mostly at Funchal to repair damage or land survivors. Two more were torpedoed later. When you think that "the safe and timely arrival of the convoy" was the Navy’s primary responsibility, this was a mess-up of monumental proportions.


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