- 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. The ships departed Liverpool on 18 December 1942; they 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 2456-ton Special Service Vessel Fidelity (D57). Fidelity was armed with four 4-inch (10-cm) guns, four torpedo tubes and a defensive torpedo net. She carried two landing craft (LCV-752 and LCV-754), two OS2U Kingfisher float planes and Motor Torpedo Boat (MTB) 105. The convoy sailed in 12 columns of three or four ships each. The convoy formation was five miles wide and 1.5 miles long.
Discovery on 26/27 December
ON-154 was routed south to avoid storms and remained distant from escort support groups and out of range of Allied patrol bombers for longer than most convoys. Empire Union was hit at 0140, Melrose Abbey was hit ten minutes later. Both British freighters sank at about 0230. Toward rescued 63 survivors from the first ship and 47 from the second.
In a second attack, U-356 torpedoed the Dutch freighter Soekaboemi at 0410, and the British freighter King Edward at 0415. King Edward sank within three minutes. U-356 was detected by the escorts and was sunk with no survivors following depth charge attacks by St. Laurent, Chilliwack, Battleford and Napanee. At dawn, Toward rescued 25 men from the King Edward and assisted Napanee, recovering all but one of Soekaboemi's crew. Soekaboemi remained afloat when abandoned at 0730.
Second attack on 27/28 December
edit] Main attack on 28/29 December
U-260 began shadowing the convoy on the morning of 28 December and directed 18 U-boats to the convoy. Fidelity attempted to launch a Kingfisher, but the plane capsized and sank at 1915. While St. Laurent rescued the Kingfisher crew, a coordinated night attack began with U-boats entering the starboard side of the convoy at 1958. Empire Wagtail at 2045. As Empire Wagtail disintegrated in an explosion that claimed all of her crew, Fidelity reported a main engine failure; Shediac was sent to assist her two miles astern of the convoy.
U-boats then entered the port side of the convoy. Empire Shackleton at 2215 and the Belgian freighter President Francoui at 2230.
Fidelity restarted main engines at 0500 and declined the offer to dispatch a tug from Gibraltar. Speed was limited to two knots while streaming anti-torpedo nets when observed by Meteor and Milne at 0530. U-615 found Fidelity while her main engines were again stopped for repairs between 1015 and 1100. U-615 identified Fidelity as a Q-ship and shadowed her cautiously. A reconnaissance flight by Fidelity's remaining Kingfisher observed two shadowing submarines and two of Empire Shackleton's lifeboats. Fidelity launched LCV-752 and LCV-754 to tow-in the lifeboats. Fidelity recovered the Kingfisher and the two landing craft with Empire Shackleton's survivors that afternoon and launched MTB-105 to conduct anti-submarine patrols through the night. U-615 launched four torpedoes at Fidelity at about 2000, but the anti-torpedo net protected the ship from damage. MTB-105 experienced engine problems and lost contact with Fidelity at about 2300. MTB-105 heard radio calls from Fidelity shortly after dawn, but had inadequate battery power to respond. U-435 torpedoed Fidelity at 1630 and was surprised by the size of the resulting explosion and by the large number of men subsequently seen floating in the water where the ship had sunk. MTB-105 rigged a makeshift sail to try and reach land.
Battleford, Shediac, Milne and Meteor were released on 30 December to refuel in the Azores. With only four escorts remaining and as many as twelve U-boats in contact with the convoy, St. Laurent's captain, as commander of Escort Group C-1, suffered a nervous breakdown at the scale of the losses. Following the loss of the convoy commodore, he invited two fast ships with large passenger complements (Calgary and Advastun), to escape if they found an opportunity. HMCS St. Francis and the V class destroyer HMS Viceroy reinforced the convoy escort before nightfall on 30 December, the U-boats were ordered to disengage. Shediac and Meteor ran out of fuel before reaching the Azores. Battleford towed Shediac the last 40 miles and Meteor was towed the last five miles. All four refuelled and joined the search for survivors. HMCS Prescott found and rescued the eight men aboard MTB-105 on 1 January; but, aside from the 2-man Kingfisher crew rescued earlier by St. Laurent, there were no other survivors from Fidelity's crew of 325 and the men rescued from Empire Shackleton. Prescott also saved 26 crewmen from President Francoui, but the recovery effort found no other convoy survivors. The remainder of the convoy reached New York City on 12 January 1943.
Ships in the convoy
Name Flag Dead Tonnage Cargo Notes Aldrastus (1923) 7,905 gross register tons (GRT) Algorab (1921) 4,938 GRT destination Capetown Baron Cochrane (1927) 2 3,385 GRT 4376 tons coal sunk by 3,942 GRT veteran of convoy SL 125; destination Halifax; survived this convoy, convoy SC 122 & convoy ONS 5 Baron Inchcape (1917) 7,005 GRT Belle Isle (1932) 1,960 GRT Berkel (1930) 2,130 GRT veteran of convoy SC 107; survived this convoy and convoy ONS 5 Bonita (1918) 4,929 GRT survived this convoy and convoy SC 122 Bornholm (1930) 3,177 GRT veteran of convoy SL 125; survived this convoy and convoy ONS 5 Calgary (1921) 7,206 GRT veteran of convoy SL 125 Dundrum Castle (1919) 5,259 GRT veteran of convoy SC 42 and convoy SL 125 E G Seubert (1918) 9,181 GRT survived this convoy and convoy SC 130 Empire Cougar (1919) 5,758 GRT veteran of convoy SL 125 6,991 GRT 37 7,068 GRT 2,000 tons ammunition, aircraft & general cargo veteran of convoy SC 107, carried convoy commodore VADM W de M Egerton DSO; sunk by 5,691 GRT veteran of convoy SL 125 6 5,952 GRT 940 tons general cargo veteran of convoy SC 107; sunk by 43 4,893 GRT sunk by U-260 Esturia (1914) 6,968 GRT Euthalia (1918) 3,553 GRT Fana (1939) 1,375 GRT survived this convoy and convoy ONS 5 Fort Lamy (1919) 5,242 GRT ship's master was convoy vice commodore; survived to be sunk 2 months later in convoy SC 121 Henry R Mallory (1916) 6,063 GRT survived to be sunk a month later in convoy SC 118 James Hawson (1930) 6,074 GRT Janeta (1929) 4,312 GRT veteran of convoy SC 107 Jasper Park (1942) 7,129 GRT King Edward (1919) 23 5,224 GRT (in ballast) veteran of convoy SL 125; sunk by 5,484 GRT veteran of convoy HX 79; survived this convoy and convoy SC 118 Lynton Grange (1937) (none) 5,029 GRT 5,997 tons general cargo veteran of convoy SL 125; sunk by 14 5,273 GRT (in ballast) veteran of convoy SC 7 and convoy SC 94; sunk by 7 2,473 GRT 3,403 tons coal sunk by 6,086 GRT Norse King (1920) 35 5,701 GRT 5,453 tons coal sunk by 4,392 GRT destination Capetown Olney (1920) 7,294 GRT veteran of convoy SC 107 President Francqui (1928) 5 4,919 GRT (in ballast) sunk by 2,334 GRT Ravnefjell (1938) 1,339 GRT veteran of convoy HX 79; survived this convoy, convoy SC 121 and convoy SC 130 Runswick (1930) 3,970 GRT returned to England Scottish Heather (1928) 7,087 GRT escort oiler, damaged by 1 7,051 GRT 5,000 tons general cargo sunk by 1,571 GRT convoy rescue ship Tynemouth (1940) 3,168 GRT veteran of convoy SC 94 and convoy SL 125 Umgeni (1938) 8,149 GRT detached 1 January Veni (1901) 2,982 GRT veteran of convoy SC 94 Vest (1920) 5,074 GRT veteran of convoy SC 107 Ville de Rouen (1919) (none) 5,083 GRT 5,500 tons general cargo veteran of convoy SL 125; sunk by 8,537 GRT survived this convoy and convoy SC 122 Wisla (1928) 3,106 GRT veteran of convoy SC 42 Zarian (1938) 4 4,871 GRT 7,500 tons general cargo veteran of convoy SL 125; sunk by edit] References
- ^ a b Hague 2000 p.158
- ^ Milner 1985 p.287
- ^ a b c d e Rohwer & Hummelchen 1992 p.183
- ^ Lenton & Colledge 1968 p.279
- ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Convoy ONS 154". J. Gordon Mumford. http://www.gordonmumford.com/m-navy/ons154-0.htm. Retrieved 2010-12-02.
- ^ Milner 1985 p.3
- ^ a b c d Hague 2000 p.161
- ^ Milner 1985 pp.4 & 209
- ^ a b c d "ON convoys". Andrew Hague Convoy Database. http://www.convoyweb.org.uk/on/index.html. Retrieved 2011-05-25.
- Hague, Arnold (2000). The Allied Convoy System 1939-1945. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-019-3.
- Lenton, H.T. and Colledge, J.J. (1968). British and Dominion Warships of World War Two. Doubleday and Company.
- Milner, Marc (1985). North Atlantic Run. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-450-0.
- Morison, Samuel Eliot (1975). History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, Volume I The Battle of the Atlantic 1939-1943. Little, Brown and Company.
- Rohwer, J. and Hummelchen, G. (1992). Chronology of the War at Sea 1939-1945. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-105-X.
- Gordon Mumford's account of Convoy ONS-154
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