SECRET.
 
     
  REPORT OF PROCEEDINGS FROM 29TH APRIL, 1943 TO 8TH MAY, 1943.
  ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------  
  FROM . . . . THE COMMANDING OFFICER, H.M.S. OFFA.  
  DATE  . . . . 8th May, 1943.                                                                               No. 1620/223.
  TO . . . . . . . THE SENIOR OFFICER, THIRD ESCORT GROUP.  
  ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------  
     
 
All times G.M.T. (Z).
 
     
 
29th April.              Ships sailed from St. Johns N.F. at 1300Z to comply with FONF's 290205, OFFA having been delayed by a defective steam pipe.  Course was set to pass 25 miles clear of the estimated South Eastern limit of the ice, speed 15 knots.
   
30th April.         2.  At 0330 R.D.F. contact was made with what appeared to be a scattered portion of ONS 3.  Visibility was zero and 2-1/2 hours were wasted before the group could be manoeuvred safely clear of these ships.
   
Wind SW Force 5.  Visibility 500 yds.         3.  At 0730 speed was increased to 17 knots as it appeared that this speed would allow the group to join ONS5 before dark on 1st May.
 
        4.  At 0930 course was altered to the North.  Between this time and 1500 many icebergs were passed.
   
          5.  On receipt of DUNCAN's 301800Z it became evident that ONS5 could not be met until 0300/2, and, as the sea was increasing from the North West, speed was reduced to 15 knots.  This gave an estimated time of juncture of 0730.2.
   
1st May.         6.  Course 004, degrees 15 knots.
   
2nd May.         7.  At 0230Z, on receipt of DUNCAN's 012105 giving her position, course and speed of 1 knot, course was altered to 045 degrees and speed increased to 17 knots.  At 0914, DUNCAN's 020626 was received giving convoy's alteration of course to 190 degrees at 0900Z.  Course was therefore altered to 090 degrees.
Wind SW increasing to Force 8. At 0953 DUNCAN reported that by H/F D/F OFFA bore 230 degrees and so course was altered to 070 degrees to close on a steady bearing.  At 1030, unfortunately, the visibility closed down to between 2 and 3 miles.
   
Visibility decreasing to 2 miles.         8.  From now until 2000 an endeavour was made to meet DUNCAN.  H/F/D/F bearing were most unsatisfactory, some being correct and some being reciprocals, which resulted in 3rd E.G. consistently steering away from the convoy until sufficient miles had been steamed and signals exchanged to prove the sense of the bearings.
   
          9.  At 2000 on receiving, at last, a bearing (not this time reciprocal), confirming that OFFA was ahead of the convoy, course was altered to the North and soon afterwards the convoy was met.
   
          10.  Whilst OFFA and DUNCAN exchanged papers, the Group, including ORIBI, swept five miles ahead of the convoy.
   
          11.  In accordance with B.7's wishes, 1st and 2nd Divisions swept out to 10 miles on either bow of the convoy, and by midnight the whole group formed in line abreast, 2 miles apart, at a distance 7 miles ahead of the convoy (this was also to windward).  ORIBI reported that her gyro was permanently out of action due to broken suspension.
   
3rd May.         12.  At 0400 the zig-zag was reduced so that the group worked up to 10 miles ahead to counter "the popular and successful dawn submerged attacks" which have lately been in favour.  At 0615 group turned to close to five miles ahead.
   
          13.  At 0800 the following day positions were assumed:
 
IMPULSIVE 5 to 8 miles on starboard beam.
ORIBI
   
PENN 5 to 8 miles on port beam.
PANTHER
 
     
                                                                                                  (to prevent . . . . . . . .
     
     

 

 
 
     
                                                                        SECRET.                                           Page 2.    
     
 
          13.  (Contd).  to prevent U-Boats gaining bearing on the convoy.  OFFA set course to search area 35 miles to East and South East of convoy to round up stragglers.  DUNCAN was requested to arrange oiling programme should the extremely bad weather moderate sufficiently to allow it.
Wind SW Force 9.  Sea very rough.  Visibility 5 miles.  
        14.  It should be noted that during the preceding night and the whole of this day any form of A/S operations was out of the question.  Weather conditions caused complete quenching and endangered A/S domes, and indeed it was impossible to proceed at sufficient speed to drop Minol depth charges at any but the deepest settings.
   
          15.  At 1115, on request from DUNCAN, OFFA set course to rejoin convoy from position 130ZZ30 having found no stragglers.  Owing, however, to more incorrect H/F D/F bearings from DUNCAN the convoy was not met until 1800, by which time DUNCAN had already left for St. Johns.  OFFA closed TAY, who had now become S.O. Close Escort, and it was decided to carry out the same night policy as before.
   
          16.  The weather for the last 24 hours had been appalling and the forecast from Louisburg held no hope of early improvement.  PENN, PANTHER and IMPULSIVE would be down to 43% of oil fuel by next morning.  This I considered to be a minimum in view of the distances involved and the possibility of a submarine contact during the two days of ocean passage.  Similarly OFFA and ORIBI would have to leave A.M. 5th.  These facts were reported in my 032000Z.
   
          17.  At 2140 CINCWA's 032212B was received and as IMPULSIVE had insufficient fuel to remain with SC 128 for any length of time and no U-Boats had been in contact with ONS5 for the last 48 hours, IMPULSIVE was ordered to proceed direct to Hvalfjord at her best speed (my 032215Z refers).
   
          18.  At 2200 3rd Escort Group formed line abreast 2 miles apart on the starboard (and windward) bow of the convoy six miles distant.
   
4th May.         19.  At 0800 PENN and PANTHER were ordered to proceed to St. Johns N.F. to fuel.  After consultation with TAY, OFFA and ORIBI took station at visibility distance on starboard and port bow of the convoy respectively, course being 209 degrees.
   
          20.  The weather had at last shown signs of improving and by noon wind was force 5 from the West with sea moderate.  By 1500 it was possible to steam at 22 knots to windward, visibility being about 12 miles.
   
          21.  At 1550 TAY reported H/F D/F bearing 125 degrees.  OFFA started to move across but at 1601 TAY reported another bearing 238 degrees.  This German signal was also received in OFFA, who had set listening watch on 12215 kc/s, so course was altered to 240 degrees speed 22 knots.  Meanwhile, on request from TAY, ORIBI was sent to investigate bearing of 125 degrees.
   
Wind WSW Force 6 decreasing.  Visibility 8 miles.         22.  At 1630 speed was decreased to 15 knots and box search of 2 miles was made round position 238ZZ14.  Nothing was seen or heard and at 1650 course was altered to 130 degrees to sweep out ahead of the convoy and over to the port bow as various bearings from ORIBI and TAY indicated at least 2 U-Boats in that direction.
   
          23.  At 1750 ORIBI was in sight to the Eastward.  She reported nothing in sight so was ordered to remain in her present position to keep the U-Boat down and OFFA returned to consult with TAY (at 1830).
   
          24.  TAY considered that U-Boat on port side had sighted convoy and asked OFFA to take station 8 miles ahead during daylight, ORIBI remaining where she was; and for 3rd Escort Group to cover convoy five miles on either bow by night.
   
          25.  At 1910 ORIBI reported H/F D/F bearing 195 degrees.  She was ordered to investigate while OFFA proceeded ahead of convoy.  At 1930 ORIBI reported 2 more H/F D/F bearings, one at 300 degrees which appeared to be in the same position as OFFA had already searched and the other, a third class bearing, on the starboard bow of the convoy.  At 1950 ORIBI reported a U-Boat in sight bearing 195 degrees.  OFFA altered course to close and increased to 20 knots.
     
                                                                                                                          (26. . . . . . . . .  
     
     

 

 
 
     
 
                                                                    SECRET.                                                 Page 3.
 
     
 
          26.  At 2015 ORIBI reported she was attacking in position 155ZZ19.  ORIBI was in sight she reported that she was carrying out operation "OBSERVANT" round the diving position so OFFA steered so as to join in "OBSERVANT" (2045).  After completing her first "OBSERVANT" ORIBI reported it was thought that the range of the U-Boat on diving had been underestimated so at 2100 an "OBSERVANT" of 2 miles radius was carried out round a point 2 miles south of the original diving position.  This was completed at 2149 and a sweep was carried out along the probably line of advance of the U-Boat on 230 degrees, ships being 2500 yards apart.  Having reached U-Boat's "furthest on" position course was set at 2200 to take up night stations on the convoy.  (OFFA reached her night position at 2350).
   
          27.  During all this time enemy W/T transmissions had become more and more frequent, the majority being on the new Series 2 reported in NSHQ's 030026Z.  Throughout the operations OFFA kept listening watch on line 1 of this series and reported to TAY and ORIBI whenever transmissions were heard.
   
5th May.         28.  At 0027 VIDETTE sighted a U-Boat.  At 0030 OFFA sighted VIDETTE bearing 130 degrees 2 miles crossing ahead as she attacked her U-Boat.  Course was altered to Westward to avoid her and when clear station was resumed.
   
          29.  I did not join in this hunt as it was naturally dropping astern towards other escorts of B.7 group and I thought it better, as an outsider, to cover the gap left by VIDETTE on the bow of the convoy.
   

 

Wind SE Force 2. Sea calm.  Visibility 10 miles.

        30.  At 0050 TAY considered that there were two U-Boats on starboard beam, one on port bow and one on port quarter.  At 0053 a ship was seen to be torpedoed, apparently on port side of the convoy.
 
        31.  At 0100 as both LOOSESTRIFE and VIDETTE were astern of their stations, and as the enemy to port were being engaged by appropriate escorts, OFFA took patrol station 1-1/2 miles on starboard beam of the convoy.
   
          32.  At 0106 Snowflakes were fired in the convoy and another ship (No. 81) was seen to be torpedoed.  Very shortly afterwards another ship, apparently on the port side, was also seen to be torpedoed.
   
          33.  At 0124 H/F D/F bearing was received from ORIBI, bearing 215 degrees.  As this indicated a possible attack from ahead OFFA proceeded to position 2 miles ahead of starboard wing ship.  
   
          34.  At 0238 while on port leg of zig-zag R.D.F. contact was made bearing 152 degrees 5000 yards.  Course was altered to close and speed increased to 18 knots.  A/S contact was gained and target was held down to 900 yards on course 120 degrees when leading ships of convoy seemed to be dangerously close on port bow.  Course was altered to starboard and one depth charge was fired when closest to the contact (500 yards) to put him off his stroke.  No attack on the convoy developed.  At 0257 when on course 260 degrees another R.D.F. contact was picked up bearing 258 degrees 4200 yards which gave it a plotted speed of 30 knots away.  It then disappeared.  Several R.D.F. echoes of this nature; i.e. with small amplitude and rapid movement, were picked up by Type 272 during these operations and no explanation of them can be given.
   
          35.  At 0300 VIDETTE was plotted on R.D.F. rejoining and a bright flash on her bearing (340 degrees) was seen.  At 0322 TAY requested OFFA to take position Able which was done.
   
          36.  At 0325 SNOWFLAKE was observed firing starshell at a U-Boat on the port bow while VIDETTE to the North West appeared to be firing Oerlikons.  At 0340, on request from TAY, ORIBI was ordered to assist SNOWFLAKE in chasing a U-Boat.
   
          37.  All was then quiet until 0513 when the convoy was seen to fire Snowflakes.  At 0529 tracer firing was seen in the convoy and TAY ordered "HALF RASPBERRY".
   
          38.  At 0730, after consultation with TAY, it was decided to oil OFFA from "Argon" and TAY from "British Lady", ORIBI to follow TAY at "British Lady".  It was not realised at this time that if "British Lady" was diverted to St. Johns N.F. she could spare 250 tons instead of the original 100 reported
     
                                                                                                      (by DUNCAN . . . . . . .  
     
     

 

 
 
     
 
                                                                    SECRET.                                                 Page 4 .
 
     
 
          38. (Contd). by DUNCAN and so it was considered necessary to start oiling from "Argon" as soon as possible because of the anticipated length of this operation and the possibility of the weather deteriorating.  Meanwhile ORIBI was ordered to day station at visibility distance on port bow.
   
          39.  At 0947 OFFA closed "Argon" who reported that she would not be ready for another hour.  OFFA took station ahead of convoy.
   
          40.  At 1016 ORIBI was ordered to investigate H/F D/F bearing 155 degrees to a distance of 12 miles.  At 1057 ORIBI sighted first one and then two more U-Boats on the surface.  These had all dived by 1115 and ORIBI attacked one with depth charges.  At 1220, as TAY had finished oiling, ORIBI was recalled to fuel from "British Lady".
   
          41.  At 1100 OFFA had again closed "Argon" and attempted to oil.  After receiving one gallon of oil the hose parted.  At 1240, when OFFA was just clear of the oiler, No. 22 was torpedoed.  Operation "ARTICHOKE" was carried out.  One doubtful contact was obtained at 1301 and counter-attacked with one 10-charge pattern.  This could not be subsequently confirmed and course was set to rejoin convoy, position Mike being taken up on request from TAY.
   
          42.  At 1330 TAY reported that "British Lady" could supply 250 tons if she went to St. Johns N.F. and it was decided that OFFA should oil from her after ORIBI.  Had this fact been known earlier I would have advised TAY to oil at the same time as OFFA was so employed (my 051133Z refers).
   
          43.  At 1420 ORIBI started oiling from "British Lady".  At 1506 an A/S contact was obtained and counter-attacked.  It was subsequently classified as non-sub.
   
          44.  At 1700 it appeared from numerous H/F D/F reports that U-Boats were concentrating ahead of the convoy.  In view of this ORIBI was ordered to discontinue oiling.
   
Visibility reduced to 1000 yards.         45.  TAY reported that she did not think an attack was imminent so at 1730 PFFA proceeded to oil from "British Lady".  About 30 tons were taken and tow was slipped at 1930.  At 1941 No. 102 was hit by two torpedoes and started to sink rapidly.  A minute later No. 111 and No. 84 were hit.  "ARTICHOKE" was ordered and OFFA and ORIBI requested to carry out "OBSERVANT round the wrecks.  The third leg of this operation was extended for a mile further to the westward as the area on that side close to the wreck had just recently been searched by LOOSESTRIFE in operation "ARTICHOKE".  At 2039, when about to turn from this leg to the northward, a firm asdic contact was obtained at 1500 yards range in a position 270 degrees 4500 yards from the nearest wreck.  The contact was quickly classified as "Submarine" and the first attack was carried out at 2042.  An echo sounding trace from the dual purpose echo sounder was obtained while crossing.  Some two minutes after the depth charge explosions large air bubbles were seen rising from the position.  Subsequent attacks were carried out at 2103, 2140, 2153 and 2204.  ORIBI was unable to gain contact and was ordered to patrol between OFFA and the position of the wrecks.  The U-Boat moved some 4 miles during the attack, in a North Westerly direction, after starting off with a burst of speed of about 5 knots, and appeared to be almost stopped at the end.  There may have been evidence of S.B.T. during the fourth attack.  After the fifth attack I was compelled to leave the contact taking ORIBI with me.  Heavy W/T activity indicated that the convoy was threatened with annihilation and I considered it imperative to return to it before dark.  All the attacks seemed accurate although the lack of definite evidence of damage was disappointing.  The detailed report of the attack has been rendered on Form S.1203.
   
          46.  During this hunt the weather had become foggy; visibility was reduced to one mile by 2200, and to 100 yards by 0100.  The latter condition lasted until daylight.
     
                                                                                                            (47.  . . .     . . .     . . .  
     
     

 

 
 
     
 
                                                                    SECRET.                                                 Page 5 .
 
     
 
          47.  At 2215 the hunt was abandoned and, with ORIBI on the port beam, course was set at 20 knots to rejoin the convoy.  At 2306 the convoy was met on apparent course of 296 degrees.  ORIBI was detached to take up her night station on the port bow.  OFFA steered round the starboard wing to take up her station on the starboard bow.  During this period the convoy did two emergency turns back to port and resumed its proper course.  At 2340, on request from TAY, ORIBI was ordered to assist SNOWFLAKE on the port bow while OFFA proceeded ahead at 17 knots to help VIDETTE who was chasing three U-Boats.  While still on the beam of the convoy orders were received to take up night stations as for the previous night, VIDETTE having reported having given her three U-Boats a headache.
   
6th May.         48.  Between 0029 and 0105 the port screen were chasing U-Boats, and at 0132 ORIBI was ordered to assist on the port quarter, where SNOWFLAKE and SUNFLOWER were engaged with many U-Boats.  At 0227, on request from TAY, OFFA proceeded over to the port bow of the convoy to cover the alteration of course at 0200.
   
          49.  At 0230 a heavy underwater explosion was heard on the starboard side of the convoy.  It did not sound like depth charges.  At 0236 R.D.F. contact was obtained bearing 045 degrees 4000 yards; amplitude of echo indicating a likely U-Boat.  Course was altered towards.  The target appeared to be on course 240 degrees at first but after three minutes turned to 180 degrees.  OFFA altered to intercept but lost echo at 800 yards bearing 105 degrees.  A/S contact could not be obtained.  R.D.F. contact was regained on starboard side.  Course was altered towards but at 0247 echo faded indicating that the U-Boat had dived.  The area was investigated by Asdics but, as the port side of the convoy was heavily engaged, course was altered back to 110 degrees at 0253.  As this U-Boat might still have been a menace to the convoy VIDETTE was asked for her position to verify that she would be in a position to counter its attack.
   
          50.  At 0254, however, VIDETTE reported that she was abaft the convoy's beam, so OFFA hauled back to the westward.
   
          51.  R.D.F. contact was regained at 0300 bearing 258 degrees 4400 yards.  Speed was increased to 20 knots and course gradually altered to 210 degrees to intercept, the U-Boat's course and speed being 190 degrees 12 knots.  At 0313 hydrophone effect of fast diesel engines was heard on the same bearing as the R.D.F. contact which was at this time being lost in the ground wave at 500 yards bearing 235 degrees.  At 0314 hydrophone effect appeared slightly to starboard for the diving position.  The wake was immediately sighted ahead and hydrophone effect increased ahead.  OFFA therefore hauled out clear of the wake and ran up on a parallel course.  The U-Boat was sighted on the starboard bow at 100 yards, illuminated by 20" S.P. and engaged with Oerlikons, several hits being scored into the conning tower.  Main armament and pompoms could not depress sufficiently.
   
          52.  The U-Boat, which at this juncture could be seen quite clearly, was painted light grey and has an open conning tower, the after end of which was slightly lower than the fore end.  An erection just abaft the conning tower appeared to be the fitting for the telescopic look-out chair or possibly an R.D.F. telescopic aerial.
   
          53.  At 0316 the wheel was put hard a starboard to ram.  It is my impression that as the ship's bows started to turn towards the U-Boat she commenced to dive.  The conning tower moved aft from about the level of "A" Gun and, when I last saw it, was about level with the bridge.  The ship was turning fast and I could still see the hull of the U-Boat underwater as it disappeared aft very rapidly.  Then I gave the order to fire.  This order most unfortunately miscarried.  During the hunt I had twice given orders for the throwers:  in the first instance: "Ready Port", and in the second instance: "Ready Starboard"; but at the moment when I put the helm over it became obvious that the starboard throwers only would be required and I gave the order "Ready Starboard".  These were fired correctly but when I followed this up with an order to "fire everything" the man at the pump lever to
     
                                                                                                     (the traps was . . .    . . .  
     
     

 

 
 
     
 
                                                                    SECRET.                                                 Page 6 .
 
     
 
   
  53.  (Contd.)
   
  the traps was so obsessed with the order to fire the starboard throwers only that he failed to fire the traps and so the barrage from the traps, which would have laid down in a curve over the U-Boat, was not dropped and certain destruction was not obtained.  From the plot it appears that the depth charges from the starboard throwers detonated very close to the stern of the U-Boat.  The turn was continued to starboard as in my mind's eye I thought the U-Boat had turned to port.  This was not so, but asdic contact was obtained at 0321, and held for two minutes, when it faded out at 850 yards.
   
          54.  Further contact was not obtained, and as R/T showed that the convoy was being actively attacked and defended, I proceeded across the convoy's track towards the port bow at 20 knots.
   
          55.  Station was eventually reached at 0515 on a part of the convoy (7 ships) which was about four miles to starboard of the convoy's estimated track.  No other portion could be found and two escorts were plotted on the port beam of this section.  Subsequent analysis indicates that one of these was ORIBI.
   
          56.  At 0623 OFFA took position Able on request of TAY.  At 0745 the battle appeared to have shifted to astern of the convoy where it was taken up by the First Escort Group.  I was somewhat perturbed about ORIBI's condition, having received a report that her forepeak and provision room were flooded, and decided to get her out of the area as quickly as possible.  I therefore asked TAY to relieve me in position Able and whether he could agree to the Third Escort Group proceeding.
   
          57.  VIDETTE was detailed for position Able and at 0809 I set course 196 degrees speed 12 knots, informing ORIBI and ordering him to join me.  One merchant ship was passed when about five miles ahead of the convoy but very low visibility prevented any exchange of signals.
   
7th May.         58.  Course was altered to 245 degrees at 0800.  At 1600 course was altered to 278 degrees and speed of advance reduced to 8.5 knots.
   
8th May.         59.  Secured alongside "Teakwood" at St. John's N.F. at 1215 with 72 tons of oil fuel remaining.
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
                                                                                         
                                                                                          CAPTAIN.  
     
     
     
     
   
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

 


 

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