Convoy rescue ship

During the Second World War designated convoy rescue ships accompanied some Atlantic convoys to rescue survivors from ships that had been attacked. Rescue ships were typically small freighters with passenger accommodation converted to rescue service. This involved enlarging galley and food storage areas and providing berthing and sanitary facilities for approximately 150 men. Preparation for service included the installation of scrambling nets along the sides, and the substitution of boats suitable for open sea work for normal lifeboats. Rescue ships normally included a small operating room for an embarked naval doctor and sick bay staff.[1]

Service

The first specially-equipped rescue ship went into service in January 1941. When rescue ships were unavailable, large, ocean-going tugboats or converted trawlers were sometimes designated to perform rescue duty.[2]

By the end of the war 30 rescue ships had been built or converted. They participated in 797 convoys and rescued 4,194 survivors from 119 ships. Six rescue ships were lost, five to enemy action (three to U-boats and two to aircraft).

Origins

In 1940 Admiral Sir Max Kennedy Horton (later Commander-in-Chief Western Approaches Command) broached the concept of rescue ships with the Admiralty. The concept was to have merchant vessels that would accompany convoys but not carry cargo; they would instead have the role of saving the lives of seamen from ships sunk by enemy action. The rescue ship would take its position at the rear of one of the central columns of ships.[1] From this position it could observe damaged ships falling astern of the convoy and quickly rendezvous to transfer survivors. The rescue ships would also be able to provide surgical or other treatment as required. This would free the cargo vessels of the convoy to continue on their way, and escorts to focus on countering the attacking U-boats or aircraft.

The convoy rescue ship was a response to early experience. Each merchant ship in a convoy was assigned a station so that the convoy formation would consist of several columns of three to five ships. The lead ships of the columns were spaced at intervals of 1,000 yards (910 m) along a line perpendicular to the convoy course. Each ship in the column followed the ship ahead at a distance of 800 yards (730 m).[3] The typical convoy would be approximately 8 to 10 kilometers (5.0 to 6.2 mi) wide and 3 kilometers (1.9 mi) long. The rescue plan for early convoys was to have the last ship of each column rescue survivors of other ships in that column.[4] If the last ship in column was hit, the rescue task fell to the escorting warships. In practice, the escorting warships performed rescue tasks more often than the 25% suggested by random hits on a four-ship column because some merchant ships refused to leave the protection of the convoy formation to fall back and remain a stationary target while rescuing survivors. Furthermore, merchant ships were not well suited to maneuver to pick up survivors, and those attempting rescue were hampered by lack of suitable rescue equipment.

For the role the Admiralty sought out small, quick, manoeuvrable vessels; it drew many from among the Clyde Shipping Company's coastal passenger transports. The requisitioned passenger ships had a speed of 11 to 12 knots, which enabled them, after completing their rescue operations, to catch up with the convoys travelling at 10 knots. Although these vessels had not been built for the Atlantic or the Arctic, none was lost to Atlantic storms; one did ice-up and founder off the coast of Newfoundland.

The rescue ships were not hospital ships and so were legitimate targets as far as German submarines or bombers were concerned. Consequently, the Admiralty armed them with AA guns for protection when they were separated from the convoy and vulnerable to enemy attack. In addition to equipment for rescuing and treating survivors, rescue ships carried High Frequency radio Direction Finding equipment (abbreviated to HF/DF and known as "Huff-Duff") to assist in the location of U-boats.[1] The rescue ship's position at the rear of the convoy provided good triangulation in combination with the HF/DF installed on the escort leader typically patrolling in front of the convoy.

List of convoy rescue ships

The convoy rescue ship Rathlin (6105339735)
Rathlin

The rescue ships were:[5]

  • Aboyne 1020 tons, built 1937, in rescue service from 11 June 1943, sailed with 26 convoys, rescued 20 survivors.
  • Accrington 1678 tons, built 1910, in rescue service from 26 July 1942, sailed with 36 convoys, rescued 141 survivors.
  • Beachy 1600 tons, built 1936, in rescue service from January 1941, sailed with 5 convoys, sunk by aircraft 11 January 1941 while assigned to convoy HG-49.
  • Bury 1686 tons, built 1911, in rescue service from 27 December 1941, sailed with 48 convoys, rescued 237 survivors.
  • Copeland 1526 tons, built 1923, in rescue service from 29 January 1941, sailed with 71 convoys, rescued 433 survivors.
  • Dewsbury 1686 tons, built 1910, in rescue service from 29 September 1941, sailed with 43 convoys, rescued 5 survivors.
  • Dundee 1541 tons, built 1934, in rescue service from 8 August 1943, sailed with 24 convoys, rescued 11 survivors.
  • Eddystone 1500 tons, built 1927, in rescue service from 11 June 1943, sailed with 24 convoys, rescued 64 survivors.
  • Empire Carpenter
  • Empire Comfort 1333 tons, converted Castle class corvette built 1945, in rescue service from 25 February 1945, sailed with 8 convoys.
  • Empire Lifeguard 1333 tons, converted Castle class corvette built 1944, in rescue service from 7 March 1945, sailed with 6 convoys.
  • Empire Peacemaker 1333 tons, Castle class corvette built 1945, in rescue service from 10 February 1945, sailed with 8 convoys, rescued 3 survivors.
  • Empire Rest 1327 tons, Castle class corvette built 1944, in rescue service from 12 November 1944, sailed with 11 convoys.
  • Empire Shelter 1336 tons, Castle class corvette built 1945, in rescue service from 16 April 1945, sailed with 6 convoys.
  • Fastnet 1415 tons, built 1928, in rescue service from 7 October 1943, sailed with 25 convoys, rescued 35 survivors.
  • Goodwin 1569 tons, built 1917, in rescue service from 28 April 1943, sailed with 25 convoys, rescued 133 survivors.
  • Gothland 1286 tons, built 1932, in rescue service from 5 February 1942, sailed with 41 convoys, rescued 149 survivors.
  • Hontestroom 1875 tons, built 1921, in rescue service from 11 January 1941, sailed with 11 convoys, rescued 69 survivors, withdrawn from rescue service May 1941.
  • Inanda, 5985 tons, built 1925, one voyage as part of Convoy OB 119.[6]
  • Melrose Abbey 1908 tons, built 1929, in rescue service from 11 February 1942, sailed with 46 convoys (including Convoy SC 121), rescued 85 survivors.[7]
  • Perth 2258 tons, built 1915, in rescue service from 5 May 1941, sailed with 60 convoys, rescued 455 survivors.
  • Pinto 1346 tons, built 1928, in rescue service from 12 May 1942, sailed with 10 convoys, rescued 2 survivors, sunk with loss of 16 crewmen by U-482 8 September 1944 while assigned to convoy HX 305.
  • Rathlin 1599 tons, built 1936, in rescue service from 2 October 1941, sailed with 47 convoys, including Convoy PQ 17, rescued 634 survivors.[8]
  • St Clair 1636 tons, built 1937, in rescue service from 1 July 1944, sailed with 14 convoys.
  • St Sunniva 1368 tons, built 1931, in rescue service from 7 December 1942, sailed with convoy ON 158 and probably capsized from topside ice 23 January 1943. There were no survivors from the crew of 64.
  • Stockport 1683 tons, built 1911, in rescue service from 22 October 1941, sailed with 16 convoys (including Convoy SC 107), rescued 413 survivors, sunk by U-604 23 February 1943 while assigned to Convoy ON 166. There were no survivors from the crew of 63 and survivors previously rescued from other ships.[9]
  • Syrian Prince 1989 tons, built 1936, in rescue service from 18 November 1943, sailed with 19 convoys.
  • Tjaldur 1130 tons, built 1916, in rescue service from 26 October 1941, sailed with 3 convoys, withdrawn from rescue service December 1941.
  • Toward 1571 tons, built 1923, in rescue service from 24 October 1941, sailed with 45 convoys, rescued 337 survivors, sunk by U-402 7 February 1943 while assigned to Convoy SC 118. Two survivors and 54 crewmen were lost.[10]
  • Walmer Castle 906 tons, built 1936, in rescue service from 12 September 1941, sailed with convoy OG-74 and rescued 81 survivors before being sunk by Focke-Wulf Fw 200 aircraft of I/KG 40 on 21 September 1941. Eleven crewmen and 20 of the survivors were lost.[11]
  • Zaafaran 1567 tons, built 1921, in rescue service from 23 March 1941, sailed with 26 convoys, rescued 220 survivors, sunk by aircraft with loss of one crewman during the battle of Convoy PQ 17 on 5 July 1942.[8]
  • Zamalek 1565 tons, built 1921, in rescue service from 26 February 1941, sailed with 68 convoys, including Convoy PQ 17 and Convoy SC 130, rescued 665 survivors. Also participated in QP14.[8]

Notes

  1. ^ a b c Hague 2000 p.90
  2. ^ Hague 2000 p.92
  3. ^ Seth 1962 p.78
  4. ^ Hague 2000 p.89
  5. ^ Hague 2000 p.91
  6. ^ "Convoy OB.119". Convoyweb. Archived from the original on 24 September 2012. Retrieved 15 September 2011.
  7. ^ Rohwer & Hummelchen 1992 p.196
  8. ^ a b c Irving 1968 p.182
  9. ^ Rohwer & Hummelchen 1992 p.194
  10. ^ Rohwer & Hummelchen 1992 p.191
  11. ^ Rohwer & Hummelchen 1992 p.86

References

  • Hague, Arnold (1998). Convoy Rescue Ships 1940-45. World Ship Society. ISBN 0-905617-88-6.
  • Hague, Arnold (2000). The Allied Convoy System 1939-1945. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-019-3.
  • Irving, David (1968). The Destruction of Convoy PQ-17. Simon and Schuster.
  • Rohwer, J.; Hummelchen, G. (1992). Chronology of the War at Sea 1939-1945. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-105-X.
  • Seth, Ronald (1962). The Fiercest Battle. W. W. Norton and Company.
Amenities ship

An amenities ship is a ship outfitted with recreational facilities as part of a mobile naval base. Amenities ships included movie theaters and canteens staffed by mercantile crews of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary service. These ships were intended to provide a place where British Pacific Fleet personnel could relax between operations.

Castle-class corvette

The Castle-class corvettes were an updated version of the much more numerous Flower-class corvettes of the Royal Navy, and started appearing during late 1943. They were equipped with radar as well as asdic.

Convoy ON 144

Convoy ON 144 was a trade convoy of merchant ships during the Second World War. It was the 144th of the numbered series of ON convoys Outbound from the British Isles to North America. The ships departed Liverpool on 7 November 1942 and were joined on 8 November by Mid-Ocean Escort Force Group B-6 consisting of the Flower-class corvettes Vervain, Potentilla, Eglantine, Montbretia and Rose and the convoy rescue ship Perth. Group B-6 had sailed without the destroyers Fame and Viscount which had been damaged in the battle for eastbound convoy SC 104. The United States Coast Guard cutters Bibb, Duane, and Ingham accompanied the convoy from the Western Approaches with ships that detached for Iceland on 15 November.

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 67

Convoy ON 67 was a trade convoy of merchant ships during the Second World War. It was the 67th of the numbered series of ON convoys Outbound from the British Isles to North America. The ships departed from Liverpool on 14 February 1942 with convoy rescue ship Toward, and were escorted to the Mid-Ocean Meeting Point by escort group B4.

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.

Empire Shelter

Empire Shelter was a ship originally laid down as the Castle-class corvette HMS Barnard Castle of the Royal Navy (pennant number K594), but converted to a convoy rescue ship before completion.

Convoy rescue ships accompanied some Atlantic convoys to rescue survivors from ships which had been attacked. Conversion to rescue service involved enlarging galley and food storage areas and providing berthing and sanitary facilities for approximately 150 men. Scrambling nets were rigged along the sides, and boats suitable for open sea work were substituted for normal lifeboats. Rescue ships normally included a small operating room for an embarked naval doctor and sick bay staff.Empire Shelter was launched by George Brown & Co., Greenock on 3 October 1944, and brought into service on 16 April 1945. She was owned by the Ministry of War Transport and operated by Ellerman City Line, and sailed with six convoys.

In August 1954 Empire Shelter sailed from Port Said, Egypt carrying soldiers and equipment of the Second Battalion The Green Howards that had been stationed in the Suez Garrison, Egypt, and took them to Famagusta, Cyprus where they disembarked and moved into 12 Mile Camp, Dhekelia, Cyprus under canvas.Laid up in 1954 at Falmouth, the ship was scrapped in July 1955 at Burght in Belgium.Barnard Castle is a small town in County Durham, England.

General stores issue ship

General stores issue ship is a type of ship used by the United States Navy during World War II and for some time afterwards.

The task of the general stores issue ship was to sail into non-combat, or rear, areas and disburse general stores, such as canned goods, toilet paper, office supplies, etc., to ships and stations.

Guard ship

A guard ship is a warship assigned as a stationary guard in a port or harbour, as opposed to a coastal patrol boat which serves its protective role at sea.

HMS Perth

HMS Perth was an armed boarding steamer of 2,505 grt that served in both world wars. Built in 1915 for the Dundee and Newcastle Steam Shipping Co, she was hired by the Royal Navy and fitted with three 4.7" guns. She served mainly on the East Indies Station in World War I and was returned to her civilian owners in August 1919. In 1940 she was again requisitioned and served as a convoy rescue ship until the end of the war. In 1945 she returned to civilian duties and in 1946 she was sold to the Falkland Islands Company and renamed Lafonia.

Mine countermeasures vessel

A mine countermeasures vessel or MCMV is a type of naval ship designed for the location of and destruction of naval mines which combines the role of a minesweeper and minehunter in one hull. The term MCMV is also applied collectively to minehunters and minesweepers.

Minehunter

A minehunter is a naval vessel that seeks, detects, and destroys individual naval mines. Minesweepers, on the other hand, clear mined areas as a whole, without prior detection of mines. A vessel that combines both of these roles is known as a mine countermeasures vessel (MCMV).

Ocean boarding vessel

Ocean boarding vessels (OBVs) were merchant ships taken over by the Royal Navy for the purpose of enforcing wartime blockades by intercepting and boarding foreign vessels.

Repair ship

A repair ship is a naval auxiliary ship designed to provide maintenance support to warships. Repair ships provide similar services to destroyer, submarine and seaplane tenders or depot ships, but may offer a broader range of repair capability including equipment and personnel for repair of more significant machinery failures or battle damage.

SS Empire Comfort

SS Empire Comfort was a 1,333 GRT convoy rescue ship which was launched in 1944 as HMS York Castle a Castle-class corvette, but was renamed Empire Castle and converted for merchant service before completion by Ferguson Brothers (Port Glasgow) Ltd., Port Glasgow as yard number 372. She was launched on 20 September 1944. The ship was 252 feet (76.81 m) long, with a beam of 36 feet (10.97 m) and a draught of 13 feet 6 inches (4.11 m).

SS Empire Peacemaker

SS Empire Peacemaker was a British convoy rescue ship that served at the end of World War II, originally laid down as the corvette HMS Scarborough Castle. Post-war she served as an Army transport ship before being scrapped in 1955.

SS Empire Rest

SS Empire Rest was a British convoy rescue ship that served at the end of World War II, originally laid down as the corvette HMS Rayleigh Castle. Post-war she served as a transport ship until 1948, was sold in 1951, and scrapped in 1952.

SS Stockport (1911)

SS Stockport was a passenger and cargo vessel built for the Great Central Railway in 1912. During the Second World War she served as a convoy rescue ship until a U-boat sank her in February 1943.

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