Convoy HX 79

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Convoy HX.79
Part of World War II
Date 19–20 October 1940
Location Western Approaches
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

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.

Prelude[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

Allied merchant ships[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

  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[edit]

  • 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[edit]