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Left Liverpool on May 2-1941, dispersed May 10 (Arnold Hague gives 38 ships)
Received from Robert Martin - His source: "The Fourth Service, Merchantmen at war 1939-45", John Slader (1994).

Further details have been added with the help of:
"The Allied Convoy System" Arnold Hague
"Axis Submarine Successes of World War Two", Jürgen Rohwer
"Lloyd's War Losses", Vol I.
Misc. sinking reports from Canadian archives, received from R. Granath.

* = Ships sunk
* = Ships damaged

For info, some of the ships in this convoy had previously arrived the U.K. with Convoy HX 117.
(See also other eastbound convoys from the same time period).

Column 1: Tureby (Danish / British control?), Gand* (Belgian), Høyanger (Norwegian), New York City (British).

Column 2: British Prince (British), Edam (Dutch), Agioi Victores (Greek), Lima (Swedish), Orminster (British).

Column 3: Sommerstad (Norwegian), Baron Cawdor (British), King Edwin (British), Athelsultan (British).

Column 4: Colonial* the Commodore's ship, (British), City of Cairo (British), Eastern Star* (Norwegian), Atlantic Coast (British).

Column 5: City of Kimberley (British), Lucerna (British), El Mirlo (British), Ixion* (British), Benlomond (British).

Column 6: Burma (British), Gyda (British, ex Danish), Berhala* (Dutch), Iron Baron (listed as British, but according to Arnold Hague, this was the Norwegian Iron Baron).

Column 7: Bengore Head* (British), Gregalia* (British), Nagina (British), Zwarte Zee (Dutch tug).

Column 8: Empire Caribou* (British), ChaucerX (British), Hercules (Dutch), Tornus (British).

Column 9: Esmond* (British), Empire Cloud* (British), Aelybryn* (British), Nailsea Moor (British). also lists the British Vulcain* as being from this convoy. Additionally, according to Norwegian sources, the Norwegian Borgfred took part, joining from Iceland (accordng to Arnold Hague, the British Bradglen, Cardium, and Gunvor Mærsk also joined from Iceland - see this external page about Convoy OB 318, which also names the escorts; as can be seen, Vulcain is not included here).

Ships attacked - in the order in which they appear above:
(note that some of these ships were sunk after the convoy had been dispersed on the 10th. Numbers of casualties vary according to source - most numbers quoted here are from "Lloyd's War Losses")

The Belgian Gand, on a voyage from Liverpool to Sydney N.S. in ballast, was sunk by U-556 on May 10. She had a crew of 40 and 4 gunners - 1 died.

The British Colonial, on a voyage from Liverpool to Freetown and Beira with 3500 tons general cargo, was sunk by U-107 on May 27 - She had on board 83 people, incl. the Commodore and his staff of 6, and 4 gunners. No casualties.

The Norwegian Eastern Star was sunk on May 7 by U-94 - see my page about Eastern Star.

The British Ixion, Captain Walter Francis Dark, 2nd Mate N.P. Smith, on a voyage from Glasgow (May 3) for New York with 3500 tons of general cargo (also, diplomatic mails), was torpedoed, port side, after deck at No. 7 hatch, below water line, on May 7 by U-94 - there were no casualties, all 105 on board were saved (29 British, 76 Chinese) - 86 were picked up by Nailsea Moor, 19 by the corvette HMS Marigold. The U-boat was not sighted.

The Dutch Berhala, on a voyage from Hull for Freetown and Turkey with 7200 tons general and tin plates, locomotives, and aircraft was sunk on May 23 by U-38 - She had a crew of 62, 3 died.

The British Bengore Head, Captain Maurice Kennedy, on a voyage from Belfast (left Glasgow May 3) for Montreal with 2400 tons of general cargo (coal and binder twine), was sunk on May 9 by U-110. The torpedo struck amidships on the starboard side, causing the ship to break in 2. She had a crew of 37 and 4 gunners, all British - 1 crew died in the attack (3rd engineer). 24 survivors were picked up by a corvette, 16 by the Norwegian Borgfred, which had been appointed as rescue ship, follow the link to Borgfred above for more info on the rescues. The assistant steward, William John McGabe, died from shock after rescue.

The British Gregalia, Captain Alexander Bankier, on a voyage from Glasgow (May 3) for Trinidad in ballast (had 30 bags of South American mail on board - lost with the ship), was sunk on May 9 by U-201, torpedo struck on the starboard side between No. 1 and No. 2 holds - "Lloyd's War Losses" states she had a crew of 58 and 8 gunners, while the sinking report gives total number as 64, all British, adding that 52 were rescued by Aelybryn, 12 by the Norwegian Borgfred and landed at Sydney, C.B. on May 18. There were no casualties.

The British Empire Caribou, on a voyage from London for Boston, Mass. with a cargo of 2020 tons chalk, was sunk on May 10 by U-556 - She had a crew of 36 and 4 gunners, 27 crew and 2 gunners died.

The British Esmond, Captain James B. MacCafferty, on a voyage from Loch Ewe and Newcastle (May 4) for Sydney N.S. in ballast, was sunk on May 9 by U-110. The torpedo struck on the starboard side at No. 2 hatch - "Lloyd's War Losses" says she had a crew of 45 and 5 gunners, while the sinking report gives the total number as 49 (48 British, 1 Irish), all of whom survived, adding that 22 were picked up by the Norwegian Borgfred, some by Aelybryn, others by a corvette.

The British Empire Cloud, was damaged by U-201 on May 9 (in the attack on Gregalia).

The British Aelybryn was damaged by U-556 on May 10 - 1 died, 44 survived.

XI also have in my possession reports re the British Chaucer and the Dutch Hercules, as follows:

Chaucer, Captain Stephen Diggins, on a voyage from Hull (Apr. 25) via Methil (Apr. 30) and Loch Ewe (May 4) for New York, is said to have been missed by a torpedo at 05:00 BST on May 10 in 59 22N 34 28W (from U-556). The track of the torpedo (fired from 2000 yards on the starboard beam) was seen ahead and Chaucer put helm hard to starboard and escaped, the torpedo passing under the bow. She had a complement of 47, all British. The captain states in a subsequent interview: "SS Aelybryn was torpedoed on my starboard side just before we sighted torpedo coming towards us. Being nearest ship we set off White Rocket as per Admiralty Instructions and gave signal on whistle. Shortly afterwards Commodore fired Very Lights for Convoy to disperse".

Captain Diggins adds:
7/5/41 - At 23 hours BST in 61 39N 24 12W Ixion and Eastern Star torpedoed. No previous warning of attack. Convoy made several emergency turns following attack.
9/5/41 - At 14 hours BST in 60 28N 32 40W Esmond and Bengore Head torpedoed without warning. These two ships were ahead of me and as I passed them we noticed men in the water shouting for help. Unable to risk stopping as I was in line of fire from attacking submarine we released three lifebuoys and one liferaft and later saw men reach raft.
9/5/41 - At 14:25 BST convoy again attacked in 60 24N 32 40W. Empire Cloud outside ship to me torpedoed and Gregalia inside ship to me torpedoed. Torpedo reported having crossed my stern. Wireless message sent out later reported that Empire Caribou was torpedoed but this was definitely an error as she was ahead of me, and ship reporting these SSS evidently mixed her up with Empire Cloud. Convoy made several emergency turns during and after these attacks.
10/5/41 - At 15:00 BST in 59 22N 34 28W Aelybryn which was on my starboard beam torpedoed. I immediately put my ship full ahead and helm hard a starboard as in all attacks two torpedoes had been fired. Almost at the same moment we sighted a torpedo coming for us. It passed very close to the stem. From the bridge it appeared to go under forefoot and others who saw it say it passed under ship. I believe the action taken by me was successful in avoiding the torpedo. Vessel was in ballast draft forward being about ten feet. Also vessel rose to swell about this time. D.G. was on all the time from leaving Hull until out of danger area. As soon as Aelybryn was torpedoed, being next ship to her we sent up White Rocket and sounded warning on whistle. Soon after Commodore sent up Very Lights for Convoy to disperse. A wireless message was received saying the Hercules was torpedoed but this was a mistake as she was next in line astern of me and it was definitely an error, the torpedoed ship being the Aelybryn.
Senior operator is of the opinion that either the Commodore or Escort Armed Cruiser sent out all the distress messages. They were definitely from the same ship.
Personally I think convoy should have been zig-zagging at least from the time when Ixion was torpedoed. Also I think ships should increase to full speed immediately an attack commences.

As mentioned, also lists the British Vulcain, as having originated from this convoy. She was on a voyage from Newport for Freetown with 4617 tons of coal, and was sunk on May 24 by U-38 - She had a crew of 41, 7 of whom died. 21 were detained in French West Africa, 13 repatriated to Freetown.

Related external links:
The battle for OB 318 - Also, by going to this page, and typing the name of each ship attacked, more information is available on them.

Back to Convoy Index


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