Whilst the land war, for Britain, saw little action during the autumn of 1939, the war at sea started as soon as war was declared. The first ship to be torpedoed, the liner Athenia had actually left port in peacetime, but by the time she reached the hunting grounds of Fritz Julius Lemp in U-30, war had been declared. Against orders, Lemp sank the liner with the loss of around 120 lives. She had been sailing alone.
Experience from the First World War had shown that groups of merchant ships sailing together with war ships patrolling around the group, known as a convoy, were far safer. As a result UK authorities started planning for the reintroduction of convoys. One of the convoy routes was to be across the North Sea, one of Britain’s most heavily trafficked sea lanes. If British ships could be escorted across the international stretch of water between UK waters and the Norwegian west coast, they could use safe territorial waters to reach all Scandinavian and Russian ports. Once the ON convoys reached the planned dispersal points the plan was for the merchants to go in to the ‘Inner Leads’, the shipping lane sheltered inside the fringe of islands along most of the coast of Western Norway, well inside Norwegian territorial waters.
Equally, once the HN convoys reach the Orkneys, groups of ships would detach themselves from the main body of the convoy and with a smaller escort, head for the west coast ports such as Glasgow, Liverpool and Belfast etc.
The convoys were numbered in two lists:
HN convoys – ‘Home from Norway’
ON convoys – ‘Out to Norway’
Assembly/dispersal points in Norway:
Aspø Fjord is Point G (Lat. 61˚14’N), at Buefjorden, north of Utvær, south of Værlandet
Hovden Island Point ? (Lat. 61˚ 42’N)
Holmengraa Point ? (Lat. 60˚ 52’N)
Marstein Channel (Lat. 60˚ 08’N)
HN0 left Marsteinen lighthousefor Methill on 21 October.
The only convoy to use this departure point.
Escort: Jervis, Jupiter, Janus, Jackal, Mohawk. Covering Force cruiser: Southampton
1 Robur 21Terje Viken 31 Limousin 41 Narocz
12Wilno 22 Hektorini 32 Kroman 42 Chovzow
ON1 left Methil 4 November 1939, dispersed at Aspø fjord 0730 on 7 November 1939
Escort: HMS Somali with Ashanti, Tartar and Punjabi. Covering Force: Edinburgh. Distant cover: Nelson, Rodney, Hood. A/A cover Curlew
Merchants: all British
11 Reworlas (armed), 21 Warlaby, 12 Folda, 22 Majorc, 23 Glentilt
Note: Warlaby lost a lifeboat during the night
Convoy had submarine HMS Snapper included in the escort
HN1 probably left Bergen 6 November 1939, assembled at Aspø Light. Left at 1700hrs. Edinburgh made contact with the convoy the following morning.
Convoy dispersed off Methill around 12.15 on 10 Nov.
Escort: Somali with Ashanti, Punjabi, Tartar. Covering Force: Edinburgh. Distant cover: Nelson, Rodney, Hood. A/A cover Curlew
Egton, Goodleigh, Hetton, Hardingham, Thomas Walton, Rozewie Sheaf Water, Vina
Convoy call sign D3
Guide ship: Egton
A Norwegian destroyer and seaplane saw the convoy forming up and depart.
ON2 departure Hovden Channel on 0915 on November 15.
Escort: Afridi, with A/A cover from Cairo. Covering force Aurora.
At least four merchants, including SS Carsbreck, and Clarissa Radcliff.
HN2 departure Hovden entrance at 10.15 on 15th November 1939. Arrived Methill Roads 0800 on 18 November.
Escort:Imogen, with Impulsive, Imogen, Isis, Kandahar and Imperial. A/A cover Curlew. Cover force: Aurora
Merchants: 8 British, including Carsbreck and 2 Polish ships and 1 Finnish.
ON3 departure Methil 16.30 Sunday 26 November, dispersed at 0730 Thursday 30 November at point H on the west coast of Norway
Escort: Eskimo with Matabele, Icarus, Ilex. A/A cover Cairo
Merchant ships: Cree, Springtide, Vina, Flimstone, Leo Dawson, Vestra
HN3: assumed departure from Norway during day on 1 December, dispersed off Methill Roads at 0250 on 3 December.
Escort: Eskimo with Icarus, Ilex and Matabele. A/A cover Cairo. Covering Force: Glasgow and Suffolk. Distant Cover: Nelson, Hood, Rodney, Warspite and Dunkerque
Merchants: To Methil/East coast: Baltover, Folda, Bore III, Trevorlas, Mall, Atlantic, Glentilt, Kalev, Majorca, Amicus, King Edwin, Thistleford, Clarissa Radcliffe; Ogmore Castle and Sea Valour to west coast
SS Eskdene lost touch in fog between 1930 on 1 Dec and 0500 on 2 Dec. struck an mine, presumed lost.
ON4 Departure from Methil 1600 hrs on 5 Dec 1939. Arrived off Aspø Fjord early 8 Dec.
Escort: Eskimo, Matabele, Icarus, Ilex. Cover Force: Edinburgh and Glasgow. Distant cover: Hood
Merchants: Carperby, Baron Calvin, Teano, Santa Clara Valley, Otterpool, Polzella, Flying Dale, Crown Arun.
Escort lost touch with all ships during the night. Assumed they reached Norwegian waters north of Aspø Fjord, so escort moved on to pick up HN4.
HN4: departure during day of 8 Dec. convoy broken up for UK ports at dawn 11 Dec.
Escort: Eskimo, Matabele, Maori (relieved Eskimo), Ilex and Icarus, Nubian, Isis, Escort and Escapade., Covering Force: Edinburgh
Merchants: Albonic, Anglonorse, Temple Moat, Imperial Monarc, Albuera, Hardingham, Springtide, Baltanic, Lowmaston.
ON5 departure from Methil 16 December 1939, arrived on the Norwegian coast 19 December
Escorts: Afridi, Maori, Nubian, Mohawk, with submarine Trind. Covering force of Southampton and Edinburgh.
HN5 on 19 December 1939, left Bergen , arrived Methil 24 December
Escort: Afridi, Maori, Nubian and Mohawk, Submarine Trind, Covering force was Southampton and Ediburgh.
8 British and 19 other ships, from six neutral countries
Left Bergen overnight on 18 Dec.’39 to meet escort on the 19th, but as it was thought that the enemy might attack the convoy regarding prestige after the sinking of the Graf Spee – it was deemed desirable to delay sailing while a heavier force, Repulse and Barham was brought up. (huge, but old ships!!!!). NCSO at Bergen was told to postpone sailing for 48 hours, he could not at once get the message passed to the convoy, but this was eventually done through the courtesy of the Norwegian Admiral. The escort remained off the coast during this period.
Contact was made 14.00 on 21 December 1939
ON6 departure 1600 from Methil Dec. 1939 – Bueland, Hellisø and Aspø Fjord reached around 1000 on 1 Jan 1940.
Escort: Exmouth, Escapade, Encounter, Eclipse. Submarine Orzel. Covering force Edinburgh and Glasgow. Distant cover was provided by Hood.
Merchants: Salerno, Highlander and Ringdove, British. Wanda, Rigel and Vicenti were Finnish
HN6 departure off Aspø Fjord 1430 on 1-5 Jan 1940
Escort: Exmouth, Escapade, Encounter, Eclipse, Orzel, later also Eskimo and Tartar with Jervis, Fearless and Fury. Submarine cover from Orzel. Covering force was Edinburgh and Glasgow, with Hood for distant cover..
Guide was SS Majorca. They started with 36 ships and lost 4 during the night.
Full permitted number. First to have so many. Owing to congestion at Bergen approval had been given as an exceptional case for 36 ships to sail, but only 32 joined the escort. The other 4 ships lost contact due to a snowstorm. From 15 January 1940 the permitted number of ships was raised to 40.
ON7 departure 16.50 on 6 January 1940 from Methil, arrived at Holmengraa 10.30 on 9 January 1940
Escort: Kandahar, Kashmir, Khartoum, Encounter and Encounter. With submarine Triton. Covering force from Edinburgh and Glasgow.
HN7 departure 9 January, from Holmengraa, arrived Methil Roads at 15.30 on 12 January 1940
Escort: Afridi, Maori, Tartar, Kandahar, Kashmir, Khartouom. Submarine Triton. Covering Force of Edinburgh and Glasgow
Assembled at Holmengraa lighthouse in 10 columns
ON8, departure 1600 from Methil arrived Hovden 0850 on 19 January
Escort: Isis, Exmouth, Duncan, Impulsive p/t, Icarus fm 18th, Imperial, Imogen, Duncan, Khartoum and Kimberley, submarine Narwhal. Covering Force Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Merchants: Lasso, Fossbeck, Gullpool and Baron Kelvin. Haukefjell never joined.
HN8 departure 13.00 Friday 19 January 1940 arrival 12.00 on 22 January
Escort: Isis, Inglefield, Khartoum, Kimberley, Icarus, Impulsive, Kashmir. Edinburgh and Glasgow as cover force.
Merchantmen: Folda (leader). Nautic was torpedoed around 0500 on Saturday 20 January. Kashmir was detached to pick up survivors. Veni returned to Norway with engine trouble Friday night. Rest of the ships are unknown.
ON9 departure Methil 1610 on Wednesday 24 January 1940, arrived Aspø Fjord 0500 on Saturday 27 January
Escort: Inglefield with Kashmir, Tartar, Imogen, Isis and Seal. Covering force from Edinburgh and Glasgow joined later, with the destroyers forming an anti-submarine screen for them. Distant cover from Rodney and Repulse. Submarine cover from Seal.
Convoy consisted of 13 merchantmen.
HN9A Departure 14.00 Friday 26 January 1940, arrival at Cape Wrath 0415 on Tuesday 30 January, where ships were detached for east-west coast ports. HN9A east coast was taken over by Isis who arrived at Methil at 11.00 on 31 January with 17 ships
Escort: Inglefield, Kashmir, Imogen, Isis and submarine Seal, joined later by Sikh and Tartar. Covering force was Edinburgh and Glasgow, with distant cover from Rodney and Repulse.
Convoy from Norway consisted of 38 ships all neutrals, including Mammy, Vestfoss, Veni and Inglefire as well as Rigel, Kul, Ramavia, Julia, Ergo, Lab and Makefjell
East coast escort: Isis with Imogen, Kashmir and Tartar, with Seal astern of Kashmir.
HN9B Departure from Aspø Fjord 0855 on Monday 29 January, arrived Methil 0445 on Friday 2 February
Escort: Jervis with Juno, Jupiter and Imperial, Edinburgh and Glasgow provided daylight cover. Submarine was Seal.
Merchants: 3 British, 26 neutrals, including Estonian Anu, Norwegian Jernland, Logi and Bessheim; Swedish Frans, Aspen and Bifrost
ON10 departure from Methil at 16.30 on Monday 5 February 1940, arriving at point H for dispersal during daylight on Thursday 8 February
Escort: Imogen with Delight, Kimberley, Ilex, Imperial and submarine Narwhal. Covering force was Edinburgh and Arethusa.
Merchants: 33 ships
HN10 departure from Norway 1230 on 8 February 1940, arriving at Methill at 10.15 on Sunday 11 February.
Escort: Delight with Imogen, Ilex and Imperial, Kimberley. Covering force was Edinburgh and Arethusa,
Merchants: 38 ships, of which 12 were bound via Cape Wrath, one for Aberdeen, the rest for Methil.
HN10B departing Position E at 1230 on 11 February 1949, arriving Methil at 2300 on 13 February.
Escort: Sikh with Cossack, Mohawk and Tartar. Nubian and Gurkha joined 0700 on 12 Feb. Diana joined 1700 on 12 Feb, Cossack and Gurkha left 1700 on 13th. Covering force was Edinburgh and Arethusa. A/A cover by Cairo. Glasgow was patrolling the Norwegian coast at the time.
Merchants: 29 ships, including Tora Fire. Allneutrals. 13 ships bound for west coast ports,
ON11 departure from Methil 9 February 1940, arrived Norway 12 February
Escorts: Escapade, Echo, Encounter, Eclipse, Ivanhoe and Gurkha. Covering force Edinburgh and Arethusa. A/A cover by Cairo.
Merchants: 22 ships
HN11 departure from Norway 12 February 1940, arrived Methil 15 February.
Escorts: Escapade, Echo, Encounter, Eclipse, Ivanhoe and Gurkha. Covering force Edinburgh and Arethusa. A/A cover by Cairo.
Merchants: 27 ships
ON12 departure from Methil 13 February 1940, arrival Norway 16 February
Escorts: Inglefield, Imogen, Ilex and Delight with submarine Thistle. Covering force Edinburgh and Arethusa. Distant Cover Hood, Warspite and Glasgow
Merchants: 23 ships
HN12 departure Norway 16 February 1940, arrived Methil 19 February.
Escorts: Inglefield, Imogen, Ilex, Delight, Daring, Gallant, Jaguar, Sikh, Nuboian and Imperial. Cover force was Edinburgh and Arethusa. Submarine cover by Thistle. A/A cover by Calcutta.
Merchants: 30 ships
There were no convoys with the number 13
ON14 departing Methil 1600 on Saturday 17 February 1940,
1628/18 signal ordered convoy in to Kirkwall, arriving at midnight. None of the merchants had charts for the area and had to be led in. Fortunately it was a bright night.
Escort: Escapade withEscort, Eclipse and Electra. Submarine Narwhal joined on departure.
Merchants: Dephinus (Norwegian) leader.
They left Kirkwall at 1400 on Tuesday 20 February. Weather deteriorated badly. Edinburgh and Glasgow joined later.
During the afternoon of Thursday 22 February the convoy seems to have been dispersed off Utvaer with the weather and visibility too bad for ships to go in.
HN14 departing (probably) Holmengraa afternoon Thursday 22 February
Escorts: Escapade with Escort, Eclipse and Electra and submarine Narwhal.
Escort did not find convoy due to bad weather as the merchants left the Norwegian coast. They spent the next day looking for them and gradually rounding them up. Friday afternoon Escapade located Danish ships Ringhorn and Inga. Saturday morning, in snow storms and strong winds, Edinburgh, Arethusa, Escort and Escapade located 7 more stragglers. By 1600 they had a convoy of 10 ships. Baron Kelvin and Tora Elise, went to west coast ports around 0400 on Sunday 25 February. The rest followed in convoy towards Methil, until 0800 when the submarine spotted a U-Boat which appeared to have surfaced, as some escorts had boats out to pick up survivors.
Merchants’ time of arrival at Methil is not known.
ON15 departing Methil at 1630 on Friday 23 February 1940, arrival Norwegian coast in the afternoon of 27th.
Arrival was delayed due to bad weather. Convoy hove to for a while.
Escorts: Cossack with Imperial, Calcutta, Sikh, Nubian, Delight and Diana. Imperial was in collision with Swedish Nordia, that sank, with the loss of two crew.
HN15, should have departed from position ‘E’, but due to bad weather left from off Hovden Island around 1245 on Wednesday 28th, two days late. Arrived Largo Roads 2230 on 1 March 1940.
Escorts: Cossack with Calcutta, Delight, Sikh, Nubian, Khartoum, Imperial and Diana.
Merchants: Teano had the Commodore. (total number not given). Norwegian Rona caught fire on 29 Feb. Teviot Bank was in the convoy together with Norwegian ships Jarl and Island.
ON16, departing Methil at 1700 on Wednesday 28 February, arriving off Aspø Fjord (Point G) at 1030 on Saturday 2 March 1940.
Escorts: Escapade with Eclipse, Encounter and Electra
Norwegian patrol vessel asked Escort if she should ‘send them out’ from territorial waters.
Merchants: 39 ships in three columns, including Hague and Norwegian Basel. Vestra was the convoy leader. Also in convoy were Carron and J. Duncan
HN16 departing Aspø Fjord (Point G)1600, arrivingMethil at 1900 on Tuesday 5 March 1940.
Escorts: Escapade with Eclipse, Encounter and Electra
Merchants:28 ships joined up, including Swainby and Haarlem. Folda was the convoy leader. Norwegian Spero developed engine trouble.
Very heavy seas, 60mph gales and snow
HN17 departed western Norway 7 March 1939and arrived at Methil on 10 March.
Escorts: Delight, Diana, Gurkha, Cossack, Nubian and Ilex. Cover force was Edinburgh and Arethusa. A/A by Calcutta, and Distant cover from Hood and Valiant.
Merchants: 40 ships bound from Norwegian ports.
The convoy was at sea at the same time as ON18 as several ships were seen fromEscort in ON18
ON17A departing 4 March 1940 at 1700, arriving off Hovden Island 0935 on 8 March 1940 met by Norwegian patrol vessel that escorted convoy into Frosjøen.
Escorts: Jervis with Juno, Jupiter, Janus and Jaguar
Merchants included Haardraade. 22 ships for Norway. 1350 on 6 March saw 17 merchants join from Kirkwall. Finnish Tilda was the convoy leader.
This convoy was sent early due to the congestion of ships at Methil.
ON18 departing Methil at 1700 on Thursday 7 Match 1940, arriving at Aspø Fjord (Point G) for merchants to enter territorial waters at 0800 on Sunday 10 March 1940.
Escort: Escort with Kelly, Cairo and Electra.
Kelly was in collision, probably with Gurka, but required no assistance. This apparently happened before zig-zagging was abandoned due to a heavy snow squall.
Edinburgh and Arethusa provided distant cover.
HN19, departing point E at 1400 on Thursday 14 Match, arriving (assumed) Methil afternoon of 15 March.
Escorts: Cossack with Gurkha and Nubian, Faulknor and Fortune. Edinburgh provided distant cover.
Merchants number unknown. Convoy leader was Ester Thordew
ON20, departing 1700 on Friday 15 March 1940, arriving Aspø Fjord (Point G) 1200 on Monday 18 March.
Escorts: Escort with Electra, Encounter and Escapade, Kashmir and Kimberley joined from Kirkwall. Cairo joined for Sunday 17th March only (left for lee of Shetland for repairs)
Convoy was joined by Kirkwall ships.
1600 on Saturday 16, saw HN19 passing to the east.
Merchants unknown, Sunday saw 17 still in convoy in bad storms, with heavy seas. 12 had heaved to due to the bad storms. Ada Gorthon’s deck cargo shifted.
As the escorts were leading the merchants in,14 of them, HN20 came out and the escorts were re-assigned to this convoy.
HN20 departing 1430 from Aspø Fjord on Monday 18 March 1940, arriving Rosyth Bridge at 0900 on Friday 22 March.
Escorts: Escort withElctra, Kimberley and Encounter. Sheffield provided distant cover.
Merchants, unknown, but including Norwegian Basel and Briarswood who had to throw some deck cargo overboard ascargo bands had broken. Deck cargo also slowed down those carrying such. Danish Polly joined convoy on 20th. Caledonia and Carpon joined late 20th.
Wednesday 2000 saw flashes of gun fire to the west. ON21 was under attack.
ON21 departing Methyl at 1700 on Tuesday 19th March, arriving Point E (on Norwegian coast) at 1400 on 23 March 1940.
Escort: Javelin, withJupiter, Janus, Eclipse and Porpoise.
Merchants: Unknown, but including Wanda.
Methil part of convoy attacked by aircraft between 1840 and 1952 on Wednesday 20. Kirkwall part of convoy joined that evening around 2100.
HN21 departed Point E (on Norwegian coast) at 1400 on 23 March, arriving at Methil at 1000 on Monday 25 March 1940.
Escorts: Javelin with Calcutta (A/A cover), Janus, Juno, Eclipse and submarine Porpoise. Cossack and Gurkha joined that evening.
Merchants: unknown, but including Beckenville.
ON22 departed Methil at 1515 on 23 March 1940, arriving at Position E (on Norwegian coast) at 0530 on 27 March 1940
Escort, uncertain appears to be led by Breda.
Merchants unknown: included Hill. Salmon Poll and Sea Valour were left behind at anchor.
HN22 departed Hovden at 0900 on 27 March arriving Scapa Flow early on 29th March 1940.
Escort Faulknor with Aurora and Cairo Kashmir and Kimberley, together with Sheffield.
Merchants: unknown. Breda was the convoy leader. Swedish ship Devon was in the convoy with Stargard and Demerton
Twice the convoy came under attack from Nazi aircraft. The first time at 1245 on 28 March when the attackers, two Dorniers, were seen off by A/A fire from Kashmir and Escapade, the aircraft circled the convoy for around 40 minutes.Gladiator fighters arrived to provide cover during the afternoon, but these left around 2010. The second attack came around 2020 by a single Heinkel that dropped five bombs, all missed, before returning to strafe the convoy with tracer fire. The bombing runs were repeatedly disturbed by A/A fire on every opportunity.
The westbound section of the convoy, HN22W was detached at 1900 on 28th March 1940, with Kashmir and Kimberley.
ON23 departed Methil 1400 on Wednesday 27th March 1940, arriving at Vaagso Bay and Hovden Lightin the afternoon of 31 March.
Escorts: Javelin with Janus, Juno and Eclipse, joined by Bedouin from Kirkwall at 0900 on 29 March. Bedouin then took over command.
Merchants: 24 ships from Methil, and two joined from Kirkwall. Bad weather scattered much of the convoy during the crossing, but all were together by the landfall in Norway. Guide was Salmonpool.
HN23A finally left at 2200 pm 30 March 1940, arriving at Largo Bay 1140 on 3 April
Escort: Afroditi with Cossack, Mohawk, Gurkha and Encounter.
Merchants: unknown. Leader Regin, included Norwegian Signe. In total 23 merchants seemed to have been at sea. 4 were west bound. These were detached with Mohawk and Encounter. Air attacks, but no hits. HN23A and HN23B were scheduled to have 70 ships between them. It was this congestion at Methil that led the authorities to split the convoy into two sections.
HN23B came out from Hovden Light at 2020 on 31 March 1940, arriving at Methil 1000 on 4 April 1940.
Escort: Bedouin with Eskimo
Merchants: No 11 Majorca was the guide. 20 ships came out. 35 Catherine was too slow and proceeded independently to Methil, as was 13 Fano due to engine trouble. In convoy were also 42 Maria Toft and 15 Knut, 17 Skagen,21 Leonardia, 22 Eikhaug, 32 Harmonica, 33 Fylingdale, 38 Saimaa, 41 Ceres, and 42 Lab; together with joiners from Kirkwall: Hirondelle, Becheville andFossbeck
Air attacks, but no hits
ON24 left Methill at noon on Sunday 31 March and arrived at Hovden at 0830 on Thursday 4 April 1940.
Escort: Faulknor withEscapade, Tartar and Zulu. Somali, Mashona and Matabele joined at 1030 on 1 April from Kirkwall. Zulu and Escapade returned to Kirkwall. A covering force of Sheffield (am 2 April) and Penelope (dawn 3 April) joined. Cruiser Cairo joined 1845 on 2 April.
Merchants: 18 ships from Methil, and two from Kirkwall the following morning. Ships included Norwegian Toran.
Convoy was attacked at 1500 on 2 April by two Heinkel bombers dropping 4 bombs near the convoy. No hits.One further Henkel 115 reconnaissance machine shadowed convoy and a Heinkel 11 attacked 0940 on 3 April. Four further Heinkel bombers were sighted at 1155, followed by two more. All six carried out high level attacks, dropping several bombs. No ships were hit. The planes were engaged by local escort with heavy A/A.
HN24 departed Norwegian coast 0930 4 April 1940, arriving at Methil at 1830 on Sunday 7 April.
Escort: Faulknor with Escapade, Somali, Kimberley, Tartar, Matabele. Sheffield, Penelope and Cairo joined until dark Friday 5 April.
Merchants: 40 ships, 36 of these were neutrals.
Kimberley escorted the 6 westbound ships off at 1700 on Friday 5 April.
Note: Germany invaded Norway in the early hours of Tuesday 9 April 1940. Sailing a convoy towards Norway at that stage would simply hand the ships over to German authorities.
ON-25 departed Methil late 5 April, was due in Norway 9 April 1940, but was stopped and ordered in to Kirkwall to await new Escorts for return.
Convoy had 7 British and 34 neutral ships when they left Kirkwall on 7 April, but reports of German Fleet activity made Commander-in-Chief Home Fleet order their return over night. By morning 8 April, only 17 ships were in the convoy. These were brought in to Kirkwall. The rest, thinking weather had caused the turn, felt they could deal with the storms and proceeded independently. 4 British and 20 neutrals did this. Two of the British ships joined HN25, one sailed home independently. The fourth was torpedoed during its return, probably Stancliffe (torpedoed by Hartmann in U-37). Of the 20 Neutrals, 8 escaped, 12 were taken by the Germans.
Departed Kirkwall 0650 on 10 April 1940 for Methil.
Escort: Vivien, with Woolston and Woolsey despatched to return convoy ON25. They left Rosyth at 2030 on Tuesday 9 April, “with despatch” (basically at some speed!), cruising at 26 knots once clear of Firth of Tay. Bittern joined with merchants as they came out from Kirkwall.
Merchants: 18 ships in 3 columns. Guide was Caledonia. Breda was in convoy. Swedish Bullaren was nearly hit by bombs.
HE111 shot down. Reported number of aircraft 6988, DHB-B-STAND. One pilot survived, was picked up by Woolston. He was Ober-Leutnant A.W.F.Harrald.
Commanding Officer HMS Wolsey, 11 April 1940:
“At about 1445 Wednesday 10 April Wolsey took up position on the port flank of convoy. Soon after arriving in position the escorting “Anson” flashed “Heinkel”. Hands were ready at Action Stations.
At about 1525 the roar of an aircraft high up over Starboard beam, in the sun and coming up from 1530 two bombs were seen to drop about 200 yards ahead of “Breda” and at 1531 Wolsey sighted aircraft on the Starboard bow height 7000 feet, range 6000 yards and opened fire, firing 5 rounds with the foremost mounting. Cease fire was sounded when enemy aircraft disappeared in clouds.”
“Wolsey was in rear of convoy on port leg of zig-zag and at about 1730, two aircraft making a trail of white smoke were sighted over the port quarter at 10,000 feet, going very fast up sun. These were considered to be British fighters. Bittern was seen to open fire and shortly after three bombs were dropped near convoy. Wolsey then sighted enemy aircraft and at 1732 opened fire, firing 7 rounds forward and 6 aft. Cease fire was sounded when fighters were seen to engage the enemy.”
Lt. Commander C.H. Campbell.
British airplanes attacked; their firing nearly cut off starboard tail on the HE111.
HN25 left Bergen Sunday 7 April and anchored at Frosjøen, near Hovden Island.
Their escort did not arrive on Monday 8 April, so the 10 British and 30 Neutrals remained in the fjord, waiting. British Fylingdale, the leader, remained outside the fjord waiting for the escort. Tuesday morning, 9 April, as the Germans invaded, a Swedish ship signalled the leader that ‘there were German troops in Bergen’. Fylingdale returned to the anchorage and then ran up the flag to signal “Proceed to sea”. Once they had all come out she formed them up to a convoy on their own. 37 ships were in the group. Three remained behind two Norwegian and one Danish ship. The Two Norwegian ones alter made it safely across to Allied ports, only the Danish ship fell into German hands. Captain John Short Pinkney, Master of SS Fylingdale was awarded the O.B.E. for his service during the convoy.
There were two extra convoys from Narvik to Britain that autumn:
NV1departed Narvik to Methill 26 – 31 October 1939:
Commodore aboard Linden Hall, Vice Commodore: Star Cross
Linden Hall, Alex, Poll Dernla, Sant Clara Valley, Leo Dawson, Imperial Monarch
Riley, Carperby, Star Cross, Creekirk, Cree, Albuera
Escort: Somali, Ashanti, Tartar, Fame, Intrepid, Icarus, Ivanhoe, Fearless, Foxhound.
Covering force: Aurorqa and Edinburgh. Distant cover: Nelson, Rodney and Hood.
Rendez Vous: Tranøy Lykt Thursday 26 October.
NV2 departed Narvik on 18 December, arrived Methill on 24 December 1939
Escorts: four destroyers from the Humber Force: Jervis, Janus, Jaguar and Juno. Covering force of Southampton and Glasgow. Distant cover of Repulse and Barham.
Merchants: Six British and one Greek.
Between 7 and 9 December 1939, two British freighters and one Greek were sunk by German U-Boats inside Norwegian territorial waters on the Narvik route. A new convoy to Britain was then planned, but after difficulties reaching Narvik via the Inner Leads when sailing in ballast (six grounded using this route before Christmas), it was decided that these ships should all sail independently. Some used the ON convoys on the way out, and when they in February 1940 started using Aalesund as a subsidiary assembly point for HN convoys, the laden freighters would join these convoys for the trip across the North Sea.
The details in these notes are based on the actual convoy reports as submitted by the Commanding Officers of the escort leaders. Their style of reporting varies significantly, but only a few of the early ones included details of ships names and number of ships. Where ships names are included, the inclusions mean that these ships were named in the reports for various reasons.
The convoy rotes were set according to a series of points referred to only by letters. We know that Point G was Aspø Fjord, but the others are as yet unknown. What is interesting, however, is that Norwegian naval units escorted the ships out form neutral harbours to be met by the British escorts, who could not enter neutral Norwegian waters.These escorts by the Norwegian units were ‘not entirely’ in accordance with neutrality legislation…
This information has been collated from a set of documents from the British National Archives and a few reference works. A far more complete set of data on the merchant ships that sailed in these convoys is found at www.warsailors.com. Nothing can compete with what Siri Lawson has compiled, but this list does have a few quirky nuggets of information which have not always been so easily accessible.
National Archives, London:
ADM 199/362 War diaries Rosyth, November 1939 to March 1940
ADM 199/24 ON/HN Convoys
ADM 199/2110 Scandinavian convoys and individual Atlantic Convoys 1939-1940
Rohwer, Jurgen (1968): Die U-Boot-Erfolge der Achsenmächte 1939-1945. J.F. Lehmanns Verlag, Munic