Convoy SL 125

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Convoy SL 125 was the 125th of the numbered series of World War II 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.[1] Thirty-seven merchant ships departed Freetown on 16 October 1942 and were joined at sea by five more.[2]

Initial contact[edit]

German cryptographers decoded message traffic containing tactical information about convoy SL 125, and wolf pack Streitaxt (battle axe),[3] consisting of U-103, U-134, U-203, U-409, U-440, U-509, U-510, U-572, U-604, and U-659[4] was assembled 23 October to intercept the convoy west of the Canary Islands.[3] The only United States merchant ship and escorting sloop HMS Bridgewater, Isles class trawler HMS Copinsay and Free French corvette Commandant Drogou had been detached by the time U-203 found the convoy on 25 October.[2] U-203 was depth charged and damaged while attempting to attack the straggling British tanker Anglo Maersk.[3] The tanker was subsequently shadowed by U-134 and damaged by U-509.[3]

27 October[edit]

The armed merchant cruiser and troopship HMS Esperance Bay was detached with the Shakespearian class trawler HMS Juliet, tugboat HMS Salvonia, and repair ship HMNZS Kelantan[2] when U-409 found and reported the main convoy of 37 ships on 27 October.[4] Forty-one merchant ships[5] were left in the care of Flower class corvettes Petunia,[4] Cowslip, Crocus, and Woodruff.[3][6] U-659 was depth charged and damaged while attempting to attack the convoy. After moonrise, U-604 sank the damaged Anglo Maersk[3] while U-509 torpedoed the British freighters Pacific Star and Stentor.[4]

28 October[edit]

After unsuccessful submerged daylight attacks on 28 October, U-509 sank the British freighter Nagpore and damaged the British freighter Hopecastle after sunset. U-203 sank the damaged Hopecastle before dawn.[7]

29 October[edit]

U-509 sank the British freighter Britanny during foul weather on the night of 29–30 October.[7] The British tanker Bullmouth (sailing in ballast) was damaged by U-409 and sunk by U-659.[7] The British freighter Corinaldo was damaged by both U-509 and U-659 before being sunk by U-203.[7]

30 October[edit]

Improved weather brought coordinated attacks on the night of 30–31 October. U-409 torpedoed the British freighter Silverwillow while U-604 torpedoed the British transport President Doumer and the British freighter Baron Vernon.[7] The British freighter Tasmania was damaged by U-659 and sunk by U-103.[7] The Norwegian freighter Alaska was damaged by U-510, but reached England safely with the help of newly arriving escorts.[7]


Long-range bombers of RAF Coastal Command arrived over the convoy on 31 October.[4] Admiral Dönitz cancelled operations on the morning of 1 November.[3] The convoy was reinforced with eleven more escorts[2] and reached Liverpool on 9 November.[5] It had suffered the greatest loss of any SL convoy,[8] but its timing focused the available U-boats in the area away from the Operation Torch convoys for the allied invasion of North Africa on 8 November 1942.[4] Some historians have suggested that the trade convoy SL 125 was an intentional tactical diversion to keep U-boats away from the loaded troop transports.[9] Eleven of the ships surviving this convoy sailed two months later with convoy ON 154, in which four of them were sunk.[10]

Ships in Convoy[edit]

Name[2] Flag[2] Dead[11] Tonnage (GRT)[2] Cargo[11] Notes[2]
Alaska (1918)  Norway 5,681 Torpedoed and damaged by U-510[12] on 31 Oct, while picking up survivors from Président Doumer and Tasmania which had been sunk earlier. She reached Lisbon safely on 11 Nov
Alexandre Andre (1928)  Belgium 5,322
Amstelkerk (1929)  Netherlands 4,457 Romped 30 Oct
Anglo Maersk (1930)  United Kingdom 7,705 Straggled 19 Oct; torpedoed by U-509 26 Oct but survived
Baron Elgin (1933)  United Kingdom 3,942 Detached to Funchal; survived this convoy, convoy ON 154, convoy SC 122 & convoy ONS 5
Baron Kinnaird (1927)  United Kingdom 3,355
Baron Vernon (1929)  United Kingdom 0 3,642 5,500 tons iron ore Sunk by U-604[13] 30 Oct. 0 dead. Survivors picked up by Baron Elgin
Belnor (1926)  Norway 2,871 Joined at sea 19 Oct
Bornholm (1930)  United Kingdom 3,177 Survived this convoy, convoy ON 154, & convoy ONS 5
Bothnia (1928)  United Kingdom 2,407 Joined at sea 23 Oct, survived this convoy & convoy HX 228
British Ardour (1928)  United Kingdom 7,124 Joined at sea 19 Oct as escort oiler
Brittany (1928)  United Kingdom 14 4,772 7,132 tons general cargo Veteran of convoy HX 79; sunk by U-509[14] 28 Oct
Bullmouth (1927)  United Kingdom 50 7,519 Ballasted tanker Torpedoed and damaged by U-409, then finally sunk by U-659[15] on 30 Oct. 50 of the 56 crew died.
Calgary (1921)  United Kingdom 7,206 Survived this convoy & convoy ON 154
Clan Murray (1918)  United Kingdom 5,953
Corinaldo (1921)  United Kingdom 8 7,131 5,141 tons frozen meat Damaged by both U-509 and U-659, then finally sunk by U-203[16] on 30 Oct. 8 dead. Survivors picked up by HMS Cowslip (K196)
Debrett (1940)  United Kingdom 6,244
Dundrum Castle (1919)  United Kingdom 5,259 Veteran of convoy SC 42; survived this convoy & convoy ON 154
Empire Cougar (1919)  United Kingdom 5,758 Arrived with engine defects & later survived convoy ON 154
Empire Simba (1919)  United Kingdom 5,691 Survived this convoy & convoy ON 154
Germa (1920)  Norway 5,282
Guinean (1936)  United Kingdom 5,205
Henry Stanley (1929)  United Kingdom 5,026
Hopecastle (1937)  United Kingdom 5 5,178 5,500 tons general cargo Sunk by U-509 & U-203 29 Oct
King Edward (1919)  United Kingdom 5,224 Survived to be sunk 2 months later in convoy ON 154
Lafonia (1911)  United Kingdom 1,961
Lynton Grange (1937)  United Kingdom 5,029 Survived to be sunk 2 months later in convoy ON 154
Mano (1925)  United Kingdom 1,418 Joined at sea 23 Oct; survived this convoy & convoy ONS 5
Marquesa (1918)  United Kingdom 8,979
Nagpore (1920)  United Kingdom 19 5,283 1,500 tons copper & 5,500 tons general cargo Carried convoy commodore RADM Sir C N Reyne KBE; sunk by U-509 28 Oct
Pacific Star (1920)  United Kingdom 0 7,591 5,037 tons refrigerated meat & general cargo Sunk by U-509 27 Oct
Président Doumer (1934)  United Kingdom 260 11,898 63 passengers & general cargo Troopship. Joined at sea 19 Oct; sunk by U-604 30 Oct
San Francisco (1915)  Sweden 4,933
Sembilan (1922)  Netherlands 6,566
Silver Willow (1930)  United Kingdom 5 6,373 9,000 tons general cargo Sunk by U-409 30 Oct
Stentor (1926)  United Kingdom 44 6,148 6,000 tons West African produce Carried convoy vice commodore Capt R H Garstin CBE RIN; sunk by U-509 27 Oct
Tasmania (1935)  United Kingdom 2 6,405 8,500 tons food & iron Sunk by U-103 31 Oct
Tynemouth (1940)  United Kingdom 3,168 Veteran of convoy SC 94; survived this convoy & convoy ON 154
Ville de Rouen (1919)  United Kingdom 5,083 Survived to be sunk 2 months later in convoy ON 154
Welsh Trader (1938)  United Kingdom 4,974
West Kebar (1920)  United States 5,620 Detached 20 Oct
Zarian (1938)  United Kingdom 4,871 Survived to be sunk 2 months later in convoy ON 154

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hague 2000 p.138
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "SL convoys". Andrew Hague Convoy Database. Retrieved 2011-05-24. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Blair 1998 p.69
  4. ^ a b c d e f Rohwer & Hummelchen 1992 p.172
  5. ^ a b Hague 2000 p.142
  6. ^ Edwards 1999 p.116
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Blair 1998 p.70
  8. ^ Hague 2000 pp.141-143
  9. ^ Edwards 1999 p.115
  10. ^ "ON convoys". Andrew Hague Convoy Database. Retrieved 2011-05-25. 
  11. ^ a b Hague 2000 p.146
  12. ^ "Alaska - Norwegian steam merchant". Retrieved 18 November 2013. 
  13. ^ "Baron Vernon - British steam merchant". Retrieved 18 November 2013. 
  14. ^ "Brittany - British steam merchant". Retrieved 18 November 2013. 
  15. ^ "Bullmouth - British motor tanker". Retrieved 18 November 2013. 
  16. ^ "Corinaldo - British steam merchant". Retrieved 18 November 2013. 


  • Blair, Clay (1998). Hitler's U-Boat War The Hunted 1942-1945. Random House. ISBN 0-679-45742-9. 
  • Edwards, Bernard (1999). Dönitz and the Wolf Packs. Brockhampton Press. ISBN 1-86019-927-5. 
  • Hague, Arnold (2000). The Allied Convoy System 1939-1945. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-019-3. 
  • Rohwer, J.; Hummelchen, G. (1992). Chronology of the War at Sea 1939-1945. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-105-X.