Convoy HX 79

HX 79 was an Allied North Atlantic convoy of the HX series which ran during the Battle of the Atlantic in World War II.

It suffered major losses from a U-boat attack, and, with the attack on convoy SC 7 the previous day, represents the worst two days shipping losses in the entire Atlantic campaign.

Convoy HX.79
Part of World War II
Date19–20 October 1940
Location
Result German Victory
Belligerents
 Kriegsmarine  Royal Navy
Commanders and leaders
Admiral Karl Dönitz
Strength
5 U-boats 50 ships (49 during attack)
17 escorts (11 during attack)
Casualties and losses
none 12 ships sunk
1 damaged

Prelude

HX 79 was an east-bound convoy of 50 ships which sailed from Halifax on 8 October 1940 making for Liverpool with war materials. On 19 October, 4 days from landfall, HX 79 was entering the Western Approaches, and had caught up with the position of SC 7, which was under attack.

The escort for the crossing had been meagre, being provided by two armed merchant cruisers against the possibility of attack by a surface raider, but even these had departed when HX 79 was sighted by U-47, commanded by submarine ace Kapitänleutnant Günther Prien.

At this point HX 79 was unescorted; Prien sent a sighting report and set to shadowing the convoy, while Konteradmiral Karl Dönitz ordered the pack to assemble. Those U-boats which had attacked SC 7 and were still able to fight (three had departed to re-arm having expended all their torpedoes) were directed to the scene. Four did so, U-100 (Joachim Schepke), U-46 (Engelbert Endrass), U-48 (Heinrich Bleichrodt) and U-38 (Heinrich Liebe) joining U-47 during the day.

However the Admiralty, concerned by the fate of SC 7 and anticipating an attack, rushed reinforcements to the scene; throughout the day a large escort force of 11 warships also gathered to provide cover.

Action

Undeterred by their presence however, the pack attacked as night fell; using the darkness to cover an approach on the surface, Prien penetrated the escort screen from the south to attack from within the convoy, while Endrass (who had learned his trade as Prien's 1st officer), did the same from the north.

Over the next six hours, 13 ships were torpedoed; 6 by U-47 alone (4 of which were sunk). 10 ships were sunk from the convoy, and 2 stragglers were lost later in the day. These were Shirak, which had been torpedoed in the night, and Loch Lomond, sailing with the convoy as a rescue ship. Another, Athelmonarch, was damaged but was able to make port.

HX 79 had lost 12 ships out of 49, a total tonnage of 75,069 gross register tons (GRT).

None of the attacking U-boats were damaged.

Ships in the convoy

Allied merchant ships

A total of 50 merchant vessels joined the convoy, either in Halifax or later in the voyage.[1] The SS Erna Iii returned to Halifax before the convoy was attacked by the assembled German wolfpack.

Name Flag Tonnage (GRT) Notes
Athelmonarch (1928)  United Kingdom 8,995 Arrived with torpedo damage by U-47
Atland (1910)  Sweden 5,203
Axel Johnson (1925)  Sweden 4,915 Sailed Sydney, Nova Scotia
Baron Carnegie (1925)  United Kingdom 3,178 Sailed Sydney, Nova Scotia
Benwood (1910)  Norway 3,931 Sailed Sydney, Nova Scotia
Biafra (1933)  United Kingdom 5,405
Bilderdijk (1922)  Netherlands 6,856 Sunk by U-47[2]
Blairnevis (1930)  United Kingdom 4,155 Sailed Sydney, Nova Scotia
Brittany (1928)  United Kingdom 4,772 Sailed Sydney, Nova Scotia
Cadillac (1917)  United Kingdom 12,062
Cairnvalona (1918)  United Kingdom 4,929 Sailed Sydney, Nova Scotia
Campus (1925)  United Kingdom 3,667 Sailed Sydney, Nova Scotia
Cape Corso (1929)  United Kingdom 3,807
Caprella (1931)  United Kingdom 8,230 Sunk by U-100[3]
City Of Lancaster (1924)  United Kingdom 3,041
Egda (1939)  Norway 10,050
Empire Swan (1922)  United Kingdom 7,964
Empire Trader (1908)  United Kingdom 9,990 Joined Ex BHX 79
Enseigne Maurice Prehac (1924)  United Kingdom 4,578 Sailed Sydney, Nova Scotia
Erna Iii (1930)  United Kingdom 1,590 Returned
Flowergate (1911)  United Kingdom 5,161
Gunda (1930)  Sweden 1,770
Harbury (1933)  United Kingdom 5,081
Harlesden (1932)  United Kingdom 5,483
Hoyanger (1926)  Norway 4,624 Joined Ex BHX 79
Induna (1925)  United Kingdom 5,086 Sailed Sydney, Nova Scotia
Janus (1939)  Sweden 9,965 Sunk by U-46
Kiruna (1921)  Sweden 5,484 Sailed Sydney, Nova Scotia
La Estancia (1940)  United Kingdom 5,185 Joined Ex BHX 79, Sunk by U-47
Loch Lomond (1934)  United Kingdom 5,452 Sailed Sydney, Nova Scotia. Sunk by U-100
Marathon (1919)  Greece 7,926
Matheran (1919)  United Kingdom 7,653 Sunk by U-38
Ravnefjell (1938)  Norway 1,339 Sailed Sydney, Nova Scotia
Rio Blanco (1922)  United Kingdom 4,086 Sailed Sydney, Nova Scotia
Ruperra (1925)  United Kingdom 4,548 Sailed Sydney, Nova Scotia. Sunk by U-46
Rydboholm (1933)  Sweden 3,197
Salacia (1937)  United Kingdom 5,495
San Roberto (1922)  United Kingdom 5,890
Sandanger (1938)  Norway 9,432
Shirak (1926)  United Kingdom 6,023 Joined Ex BHX 79. Sunk by U-47 & U-48
Sir Ernest Cassel (1910)  Sweden 7,739 Sailed Sydney, Nova Scotia
Sitala (1937)  United Kingdom 6,218 Joined Ex BHX 79. Sunk by U-100
Thyra (1920)  Norway 1,655 Sailed Sydney, Nova Scotia
Tiba (1938)  Netherlands 5,239 Sailed Sydney, Nova Scotia
Tribesman (1937)  United Kingdom 6,242 Joined Ex BHX 79
Triton (1930)  Norway 6,607 Joined Ex BHX 79
Uganda (1927)  United Kingdom 4,966 Sailed Sydney, Nova Scotia. sunk by U-38
Wandby (1940)  United Kingdom 4,947 Joined Ex BHX 79. Sunk by U-47. Wreck sank 21 Oct
Wellington Court (1930)  United Kingdom 4,979 Sailed Sydney, Nova Scotia
Whitford Point (1928)  United Kingdom 5,026 Sunk by U-47

Convoy escorts

A series of armed military ships escorted the convoy at various times during its journey.[1]

Name Flag Type Joined Left
HMS/HMT Angle (FY201)  Royal Navy ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) trawler 19 Oct 1940 19 Oct 1940
HMS Arabis (K73)  Royal Navy Flower-class corvette 19 Oct 1940 23 Oct 1940
HMS/HMT Blackfly (FY117)  Royal Navy ASW trawler 19 Oct 1940 19 Oct 1940
HMS Coreopsis (K32)  Royal Navy Flower-class corvette 19 Oct 1940 22 Oct 1940
HMCS French (S01)  Royal Canadian Navy Armed yacht 08 Oct 1940 09 Oct 1940
HMS Heliotrope (K03)  Royal Navy Flower-class corvette 19 Oct 1940 23 Oct 1940
HMS Hibiscus (K24)  Royal Navy Flower-class corvette 19 Oct 1940 23 Oct 1940
HMCS Husky (S06)  Royal Canadian Navy Armed yacht 09 Oct 1940 10 Oct 1940
HMS Jason (J99)  Royal Navy Halcyon-class minesweeper 09 Oct 1940 09 Oct 1940
HMS/HMT Lady Elsa (FY124)  Royal Navy ASW trawler 19 Oct 1940 19 Oct 1940
HMS Montclare (F85)  Royal Navy Armed merchant cruiser 09 Oct 1940 18 Oct 1940
HNLMS O 14  Royal Netherlands Navy O 12-class submarine 09 Oct 1940 18 Oct 1940
HMCS Reindeer (S08)  Royal Canadian Navy Armed yacht 09 Oct 1940 10 Oct 1940
HMCS Saguenay (D79)  Royal Canadian Navy Canadian River-class destroyer 08 Oct 1940 09 Oct 1940
HMS Sardonyx (H26)  Royal Navy Admiralty S-class destroyer 20 Oct 1940 20 Oct 1940
HMS Sturdy (H28)  Royal Navy Admiralty S-class destroyer 19 Oct 1940 19 Oct 1940
HMS Whitehall (I94)  Royal Navy Modified W-class destroyer 19 Oct 1940 21 Oct 1940

Conclusion

Despite the strength of the escort, it was ineffective; the ships were un-co-ordinated, being unused to working together, and having no common battle plan or tactics. The escorts had arrived singly, being dispatched as and when available, this being the common practice at the time. Command of the escort force fell to the senior officer present, and could change as each new ship arrived. Any tactical arrangements had to be made on the spot, and communicated by signal lamp to each ship in turn. Finally, the presence of an Allied submarine was less than helpful; O 14 had no targets, and was twice attacked by mistake by other escorts.

The failure of such a substantial escort led to a number of changes in escort policy. The first to take effect was the formation of escort groups, collections of escort ships that would operate together, under defined leadership. This would allow the development of consistent tactics, and teamwork, and an increasing effectiveness.

References

  1. ^ a b "Convoy HX.79". Arnold Hague Convoy Database. Retrieved 18 October 2013.
  2. ^ "Bilderdijk - Dutch team merchant". www.uboat,net. Retrieved 3 November 2013.
  3. ^ "Caprella - British motor tanker". www.ubaot.net. Retrieved 3 November 2013.

Bibliography

  • Paul Lund, Harry Ludlam : The Night of the U-Boats (1973). ISBN 0-572-00828-7
  • Stephen Roskill : The War at Sea 1939-1945 Vol I (1954). ISBN (none)
  • Arnold Hague : The Allied Convoy System 1939-1945 (2000). ISBN (Canada) 1 55125 033 0 . ISBN (UK) 1 86176 147 3
  • van der Vat, Dan (1988). The Atlantic Campaign. ISBN 0-340-37751-8.
  • Edwards, Bernard (1996). Dönitz and the Wolf Packs - The U-boats at War. p. 47. ISBN 0-304-35203-9.

External links

1940 in Germany

Events in the year 1940 in Germany.

Convoy ON 127

Convoy ON 127 was a trade convoy of merchant ships during the second World War. It was the 127th of the numbered series of ON convoys Outbound from the British Isles to North America and the only North Atlantic trade convoy of 1942 or 1943 where all U-boats deployed against the convoy launched torpedoes. The ships departed Liverpool on 4 September 1942 and were met at noon on 5 September by the Royal Canadian Navy Mid-Ocean Escort Force Group C-4 consisting of the Canadian River-class destroyer Ottawa and the Town-class destroyer St. Croix with the Flower-class corvettes Amherst, Arvida, Sherbrooke, and Celandine. St. Croix's commanding officer, acting Lieutenant Commander A. H. "Dobby" Dobson RCNR, was the senior officer of the escort group. The Canadian ships carried type 286 meter-wavelength radar but none of their sets were operational. Celandine carried Type 271 centimeter-wavelength radar. None of the ships carried HF/DF high-frequency direction finding sets.

Convoy ON 154

Convoy ON 154 was the 154th of the numbered series of World War II merchant ship convoys Outbound from the British Isles to North America. It lost 13 of its 50 freighters.

The ships departed Liverpool on 18 December 1942 and were met by the Royal Canadian Navy Mid-Ocean Escort Force Group C-1, consisting of the River-class destroyer HMCS St. Laurent with the Flower-class corvettes HMCS Battleford, Chilliwack, Kenogami, Napanee, and Shediac. ON 154 included the convoy rescue ship Toward, the oiler Scottish Heather and the French-crewed 2,456-ton special service vessel HMS Fidelity. Fidelity was armed with four 4-inch (102 mm) guns, four torpedo tubes and a defensive torpedo net. She carried two landing craft (LCV-752 and LCV-754), two OS2U Kingfisher floatplanes and the Motor Torpedo Boat MTB 105.The convoy sailed in twelve columns of three or four ships each. The convoy formation was five miles wide and 1.5 miles long.

Convoy ON 166

Convoy ON 166 was the 166th of the numbered ON series of merchant ship convoys Outbound from the British Isles to North America. Sixty-three ships departed Liverpool 11 February 1943 and were met the following day by Mid-Ocean Escort Force Group A-3 consisting of the Treasury-class cutters Campbell and Spencer and the Flower-class corvettes Dianthus, Chilliwack, Rosthern, Trillium and Dauphin.

Convoy SC 118

Convoy SC 118 was the 118th of the numbered series of World War II Slow Convoys of merchant ships from Sydney, Cape Breton Island to Liverpool. The ships departed New York City on 24 January 1943 and were met by Mid-Ocean Escort Force Group B-2 consisting of V-class destroyers Vanessa and Vimy, the Treasury-class cutter Bibb, the Town-class destroyer Beverley, Flower-class corvettes Campanula, Mignonette, Abelia and Lobelia, and the convoy rescue ship Toward.

Convoy SC 121

Convoy SC 121 was the 121st of the numbered series of World War II Slow Convoys of merchant ships from Sydney, Cape Breton Island to Liverpool. The ships departed New York City 23 February 1943; and were met by the Mid-Ocean Escort Force Group A-3 consisting of the United States Coast Guard (USCG) Treasury-class cutter USCGC Spencer, the American Wickes-class destroyer USS Greer, the British and Canadian Flower-class corvettes HMS Dianthus, HMCS Rosthern, HMCS Trillium and HMCS Dauphin and the convoy rescue ship Melrose Abbey. Three of the escorts had defective sonar and three had unserviceable radar.

Convoy SC 7

SC 7 was the code name for a large Allied World War II convoy of 35 merchant ships and six escorts, which sailed eastbound from Sydney, Nova Scotia for Liverpool and other United Kingdom ports on 5 October 1940. While crossing the Atlantic, the convoy was intercepted by one of the first Kriegsmarine submarine wolfpacks. During the ensuing battle, the escort was completely overwhelmed and 20 of the 35 cargo vessels were sunk and 2 more damaged, with 141 lives lost. The disastrous outcome of the convoy demonstrated the German submarines' potential of being able to work more efficiently using wolfpack tactics and the inadequacy of British anti-submarine tactics at the time.

Convoy SL 125

Convoy SL 125 was the 125th of the numbered series of World War II SL convoys of merchant ships from Sierra Leone to Liverpool. Ships carrying commodities bound to the British Isles from South America, Africa, and the Indian Ocean travelled independently to Freetown, Sierra Leone to be convoyed for the last leg of their voyage. Thirty-seven merchant ships departed Freetown on 16 October 1942 and were joined at sea by five more.

Escort Group

An Escort Group consisted of several small warships organized and trained to operate together providing protection for trade convoys. Escort groups were a World War II tactical innovation in anti-submarine warfare by the Royal Navy to combat the threat of the Kriegsmarine's "wolfpack" tactics. Early escort groups often contained destroyers, sloops, naval trawlers and, later, corvettes of differing specifications lacking the ability to maneuver together as a flotilla of similar warships, but rigorously trained in anti-submarine tactics to use teamwork emphasizing the unique sensors, weapons, speed and turning radius of each ship. The development of these 'escort groups' proved an effective means of defending shipping convoys through the Battle of the Atlantic.

Günther Prien

Günther Prien (16 January 1908 – presumed 7 March 1941) was a German U-boat commander during World War II. He was the first U-boat commander to receive the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross and the first member of the Kriegsmarine to receive the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves of Nazi Germany. It was Germany's highest military decoration at the time of its presentation to Prien.

Under Prien's command, the submarine U-47 was credited with sinking over 30 Allied ships totaling about 200,000 gross register tons (GRT). He sank the British battleship HMS Royal Oak at anchor in the Home Fleet's anchorage in Scapa Flow.

HMS Jason (J99)

HMS Jason was a Halcyon-class minesweeper. She was named after the hero in Greek mythology and was the sixteenth (and as of 2008, the final) Royal Navy ship to carry the name Jason. She was laid down on 12 December 1936, launched on 6 October 1937, and was completed on 9 June 1938. She survived the Second World War and was sold in 1946 to become a cargo ship. She was eventually broken up in 1950. Her pennant number was originally N99, but was changed to J99 in May 1940.

HMS Leith (U36)

HMS Leith was a Grimsby-class sloop of the Royal Navy that served in the Second World War.

HMS Whitehall

HMS Whitehall, pennant number D94, later I94, was a Modified W-class destroyer of the British Royal Navy that saw service in the Second World War.

HNLMS O 14

O 14 was a O 12-class submarine of the Royal Netherlands Navy that saw service during World War II. It was built by the Koninklijke Maatschappij De Schelde of Vlissingen and entered active duty on 4 March 1934.

Just before the start of World War II O 14 was in Curaçao. Because there was no need on the Allied side for a Dutch submarine to be stationed there, O 14 returned to Europe. Based in England, it did patrol duty off the coast of Norway, with convoy Convoy HX 79, and was decommissioned in 1943 due to a lack of replacement engines.

List of shipwrecks in October 1940

The list of shipwrecks in October 1940 includes all ships sunk, foundered, grounded, or otherwise lost during October 1940. Most of the ships listed here were lost in connection with World War II.

Order of battle for Convoy SC 7

Convoy SC 7 was the seventh of the SC convoys, bound from Sydney, Nova Scotia across the

North Atlantic to a number of British ports, mainly Liverpool. They were designated SC as their departure point was designated Sydney, Cape Breton in order to avoid confusion with Sydney in Australia. The convoys formed part of the battle of the Atlantic during the Second World War. Large numbers of merchants travelled together with naval escorts to protect against U-boat attacks. They were often slow, the merchants often only being capable of a speed of around 8 knots (15 km/h; 9.2 mph) and so were particularly vulnerable to attack. This problem was exacerbated by a shortage of suitable escorts from either the Royal Canadian Navy or the Royal Navy in the early stages of the war.Convoy SC 7 left Sydney on 5 October 1940, consisting of 36 merchants initially escorted by the Canadian armed yacht HMCS Elk and the British sloop HMS Scarborough. Having seen the convoy out of Canadian waters, Elk turned back on 7 October leaving the convoy to spend three quarters of the crossing escorted by the lone Scarborough. One of the merchants, SS Winona had developed engine problems and also turned back. The crossing was uneventful to begin with, the only casualty being SS Trevisa which was straggling behind the main convoy and was torpedoed and sunk on 16 October by U-124.The main convoy was spotted the following day by U-38, which sank SS Aenos. Further sporadic attacks continued that day and the following, despite the arrival of the sloop HMS Fowey and the corvette HMS Bluebell. The night of 18/19 October saw the successful use of the wolf pack tactics of Germany's U-boat fleet. Five U-boats; U-46, U-99, U-100, U-101 and U-123 attacked en-masse, overwhelming the escorts, newly reinforced by HMS Leith and Heartsease. They sank 16 merchants in a six-hour period, bringing the total to twenty merchants sunk and a total tonnage lost of 79,592 Gross registered tons. The U-boats only broke off their attacks to intercept convoy HX 79 that had arrived in the area. They went on to sink a further 12 ships from this convoy, for a total of 28 ships sunk on 18/19 October, making this the deadliest two days of the battle of the Atlantic. The surviving merchants were gathered up by the remaining escorts and brought into port several days later.

Robert-Richard Zapp

Robert-Richard Zapp (3 April 1904 – 17 July 1964) was a German U-boat commander in World War II. As commander of the Type IXC U-boat U-66, he sank sixteen ships on five patrols, for a total of 106,200 tons of Allied shipping, to become the 27th highest scoring U-Boat ace of World War II. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes). The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was awarded to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership.

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