Western Local Escort Force

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Western Local Escort Force (WLEF) referred to the organization of anti-submarine escorts for World War II trade convoys from North American port cities to the Western Ocean Meeting Point (WOMP or WESTOMP) near Newfoundland where ships of the Mid-Ocean Escort Force (MOEF) assumed responsibility for safely delivering the convoys to the British Isles.[1][2]

HMCS Sackville, preserved at Halifax Harbour, is believed to be the only survivor of the Canadian Flower class corvettes providing the backbone of the WLEF.

Background[edit]

On the basis of experience during World War I, the Admiralty instituted trade convoys in United Kingdom coastal waters from September 1939.[3] Convoys gradually extended westward until HX 129 left Halifax on 27 May 1941 as the first convoy to receive escort for the entire trip from Canada.[4] The American Neutrality Zone offered some protection in North American coastal waters until United States declaration of war in December 1941.[5]

Organization[edit]

The Royal Canadian Navy organized the Halifax-based Western Local Escort Force in February 1942 as U-boats began patrolling North American coastal waters during the "second happy time".[6] The Royal Navy provided the WLEF with twelve old, short-range destroyers well-equipped for anti-submarine warfare and manned by experienced personnel.[6] Newly commissioned Canadian Flower class corvettes and Bangor class minesweepers were assigned to the WLEF.[7] Town class destroyers St. Clair, Columbia, and Niagara were assigned to the WLEF after their endurance proved inadequate for MOEF assignments.[7] During the winter of 1942–43, some of these destroyers were organized into Western Support Force (WSF) groupings of three ships to augment protection of convoys coming under attack in the western Atlantic.[8]

Operations[edit]

The WLEF was theoretically organized in to eight escort groups[1] able to provide an escort of four to six ships to each convoy.[9] WLEF escort group assignments were more dynamic than the MOEF escort groups, and WLEF escorts seldom worked with the same team of ships through successive convoys.[10] A WLEF escort group would typically meet a westbound ON convoy at WOMP and then individual WLEF ships would be detached with elements of the convoy proceeding separately to Sydney, Nova Scotia, Halifax Harbour, Quebec ports on the St. Lawrence River, Saint John, New Brunswick, Boston, Massachusetts, or New York City. Some WLEF escorts were assigned to coastal convoys reaching as far south as the Caribbean.[11] Eastbound HX convoys and SC convoys worked in reverse forming with a few WLEF escorts in New York City and picking up others as ships joined from New England ports or the Maritimes.[12] Short range escorts or escorts experiencing mechanical problems might be similarly detached and replaced at intermediate points between WOMP and New York City.[13] The most frequent location for escort exchanges was the Halifax Ocean Meeting Point (HOMP) off the WLEF home port of Halifax.[14]

The WLEF operated exclusively within range of anti-submarine patrol bombers; although weather often limited flight operations. U-boats were deployed cautiously in areas where air patrols were expected, so single U-boat encounters were more common than wolf pack engagements. The name was shortened to "Western Escort Force" (WEF) in the summer of 1943.[15]

Combat chronology[edit]

Convoy routes[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Morison (1975) p.319
  2. ^ Hague 2000 p.x
  3. ^ Hague 2000 p.23
  4. ^ van der Vat (1988) p.187
  5. ^ Hague 2000 p.56
  6. ^ a b Milner (1985) p.97
  7. ^ a b Milner (1985) p.98
  8. ^ Milner (1985) p.188
  9. ^ Milner (1985) p.129
  10. ^ Middlebrook (1976) p.91
  11. ^ Morison (1975) p.349
  12. ^ Middlebrook (1976) pp.98–109
  13. ^ Gretton (1974) pp.31–32
  14. ^ Middlebrook (1976) p.108
  15. ^ Milner (1985) p.273
  16. ^ Blair (1996) p.571
  17. ^ a b Rohwer & Hummelchen (1992) p.149
  18. ^ Rohwer & Hummelchen (1992) p.152
  19. ^ Rohwer & Hummelchen (1992) p.160
  20. ^ a b c d e Rohwer & Hummelchen (1992) p.158
  21. ^ Rohwer & Hummelchen (1992) p.161
  22. ^ Runyan & Copes (1994) p.199
  23. ^ Runyan & Copes (1994) p.204
  24. ^ a b Runyan & Copes (1994) p.206
  25. ^ McLean, Douglas M. "The battle of Convoy BX-141" (PDF). Northern Mariner. Retrieved 24 June 2013. 
  26. ^ Hague 2000 pp.109–114

References[edit]

  • Blair, Clay (1996). Hitler's U-Boat War: The Hunters 1939–1942. Random House. ISBN 0-394-58839-8. 
  • Gannon, Michael (1989). Black May. Harper Collins. ISBN 0-06-017819-1. 
  • Gretton, Peter (1974). Crisis Convoy. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-925-1. 
  • 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 II. Doubleday and Company. 
  • Middlebrook, Martin (1976). Convoy. William Morrow 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. 
  • Runyan, Timothy J. and Copes, Jan M. (1994). To Die Gallantly. Westview Press. ISBN 0-8133-2332-0. 
  • van der Vat, Dan (1988). The Atlantic Campaign. Harper & Row. ISBN 0-06-015967-7.