Convoy HX 72

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Part of World War II
Date 20–22 September 1940
Location Western Approaches
Result German victory
 Kriegsmarine  Royal Navy
Commanders and leaders
Admiral Karl Dönitz Comm : HH Rogers
Escort :Cdr AM Knapp
8 U-boats 43 ships
5 escorts
Casualties and losses
none 11 ships sunk (72,727 GRT) and 3 ships damaged (18,178 GRT).

HX 72 was a North Atlantic convoy of the HX series which ran during the battle of the Atlantic in World War II. The convoy comprised 43 ships of which 11 were sunk and another damaged by German U-boats who suffered no losses.


HX 72 was an east-bound convoy of 43 ships which sailed from Halifax on 9 September 1940 bound for Liverpool and carrying war materials.

The convoy, made up of contingents from Halifax, Sydney and Bermuda was led by Commodore HH Rogers RNR in Tregarthen.

Escorts at this stage of the campaign were generally meagre; convoys generally were unescorted, or had just an armed merchant cruiser (AMC) as protection against surface raiders until reaching the Western Approaches. HX 72's ocean escort was the AMC Jervis Bay, though at sunset on 20 September Jervis Bay detached to meet a west-bound convoy. HX 72 was not due to meet the Western Approaches escort until the afternoon of 21 September, so HX 72 was unprotected when it was sighted at last light by Prien of U-47.

The U-boat Arm (UBW) was also sparse, able to maintain only a few boats at any one time in the North Atlantic, operating at the edge of the Western Approaches to intercept convoys before their escort had joined. U-47 was on weather duty, her armament depleted after an attack on Convoy SC 2 earlier that month, and was able only to report contact.

After reporting the convoy Prien shadowed the convoy, while U-boat Control (BdU) summoned all available U-boats. During night and following day a pack of 6 boats was gathered, U-99 and U-65, which were nearby, and others en route from Germany.


Kretschmer, in U-99 made contact around midnight of 20/21 September and attacked, hitting Invershannon. Rogers ordered a turn to port to try and shake off the attack, but this failed; U-99 attacked again, hitting Baron Blythswood (which sank) and Elmbank (which was disabled). U-99 and U-47 then attacked Elmbank with gunfire, but she did not sink until morning, at which point U-99 left the scene to return to Lorient.

U-48 arrived before dawn, and sank Blairangus, which was straggling. Rogers dropped smoke and turned again, to try and shake off his pursuers, but failed once more; U-47 and U-48 continued to shadow throughout the daylight on the 21st.

On 21 September, Prien and Bleichrodt were joined by 4 other boats of 2nd U-boat Flotilla, U-65, U-38, U-43 and U-32, while U-100 arrived at nightfall.

However that afternoon the Western Approaches escort also arrived, causing the U boats to draw back. At this stage, escorts usually arrived piecemeal, but by evening 5 warships had arrived, the sloop Lowestoft, destroyer Shikari and 3 corvettes, Calendula, Heartsease and La Malouine.

At nightfall on 21/22 September U-100 struck, entering the convoy to attack at close range. Attacking before moonrise Schepke hit three ships within minutes, causing confusion. Canonesa, Torinia and Dalcairn were sunk, and the convoy began to scatter in confusion. The escort sought to retaliate, but searched outside the convoy perimeter, where the rest of the pack was gathered; they were unable to find Schepke, but were able to frustrate further attacks. U-48 hit Broompark, which was damaged, but no other boat was successful. Just after midnight U-100 struck again, sinking 3 more ships; Empire Airman, Scholar, and Frederick S Fales. She also attacked Harlingen, but was spotted; Harlingen avoided the torpedoes aimed at her, and returned fire with her stern gun, scoring several hits, but causing little damage.

As the convoy broke up, two more ships were hit; U-100 sank Simla, while U-32 damaged Collegian.

This was the end of the action; HX 72 was scattered, but the U–boats were unable to pursue, as the presence of the escorts had forced them to submerge. The remaining ships of HX 72 proceeded independently, while the escorts tried to gather the convoy back together, but no further attacks took place and all remaining ships reached port safely.


HX 72 had lost 11 ships of 72,727 gross register tons, of which Kretschmer sank three and Schepke seven ships. Whilst undoubtedly a victory, and a vindication of Donitz’s wolfpack tactic, most of the UBW's successes were achieved by two of its aces using their high-risk tactic of penetrating the convoy to attack from within. The other boats following the more traditional approach from the flank, and at longer range, were far less successful.


Allied ships sunk

Date Name Nationality Casualties Tonnage
Sunk by…
20/21 September 1940 Invershannon  United Kingdom 16 9,154 U-99
20/21 September 1940 Baron Blythswood  United Kingdom 34 3,668 U-99
21 September 1940 Elmbank  United Kingdom 1 5,156 U-99, U-47
21 September 1940 Blairangus  United Kingdom 7 4,409 U-48
21/22 September 1940 Canonesa  United Kingdom 1 8,286 U-100
21/22 September 1940 Torinia  United Kingdom 5 10,364 U-100
21/22 September 1940 Dalcairn  United Kingdom none 4,608 U-100
21/22 September 1940 Empire Airman  United Kingdom 33 6,586 U-100
21/22 September 1940 Scholar  United Kingdom none 3,940 U-100
21/22 September 1940 Frederick S. Fales  United Kingdom 11 10,525 U-100
22 September 1940 Simla  Norway 5 6,031 U-100


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