S E C R E T.  
 
CONVOY ONS 5
 
 
REPORT OF PROCEEDINGS - SENIOR OFFICER IN
 
 
_______________H.M.S. DUNCAN._______________
 
     
          O.N.S. 5., consisting of 45 ships (Commodore J. Brooks, R.N.R. in RENA) was met off Oersay at 1400B/22 April.  DUNCAN exercised fuelling from Escort Oiler BRITISH LADY on the way to rendezvous - a feat for which I was afterwards grateful.  Escorts present, DUNCAN(B7), TAY, SUNFLOWER, LOOSESTRIFE, SNOWFLAKE and PINK.  VIDETTE had been sent on to Iceland to fuel and escort the Iceland portion.  Convoy and escorts were settled down in good station by 1800B.  NORTHERN SPRAY and NORTHERN GEM also joined as rescue trawlers.  
     
          2.  The weather was very poor during the next few days, and the convoy made slow progress.  On the evening of 23rd April, MODLIN had to return to Clyde owing to boiler trouble.  
     
          3.  At 1330B/24, received Admiralty's 241449B, stating that convoy had been reported.  Before this news had been cancelled by Admiralty's 241725B, I organised a dusk quarter sweep, put TAY on M/F D/F searching watch, and started to oil from BRITISH LADY in bad weather.  It tool over two hours to connect up and the hose then burst after only one ton had been pumped - due to an old hose.  There was no more time that night and the weather then further deteriorated, so that there was no opportunity the next day either.  In order to economise, I had been steaming at convoy speed in the middle of the convoy by day (position S amended).  
     
          4.  Air protection was given the next day, April 25th, (see Appendix C).  During the night of 25th - 26th April, another gale blew and BERKEL (104) and BORNHOLM (93) collided, the latter having to proceed to Iceland.  At 2330/25, I could see no less than seven ships with N.U.C. lights showing.  By noon next day, all ships were again in company except PENHALE (81) who was being whipped up from astern by NORTHERN SPRAY.  It soon became evident that she would never catch up and I ordered her to Iceland as the stragglers lot - from a study of the submarine dispositions - promised to be no happy one.  VIDETTE and the Iceland section of three ships joined at 1400Z/26 with the help of aircraft and H/F D/F.  By then I was getting extremely anxious about my fuel and despatched my 261500Z.  
     
          4.  Fortunately, the weather cleared on April 27th and DUNCAN topped up complete, followed by VIDETTE and LOOSESTRIFE.  Hudsons gave air cover all day, (See Appendix C).  
     
          5.  All times now in convoy time Zone Plus Two.  
     
  SHADOWED.  At 0530, 28th, an B bar, H/F D/F signal, bearing 159 was heard, classified as ground ray - S.C.127 was on that bearing and it soon became apparent that that convoy had been reported and not us.  This was later confirmed by Admiralty's 281321B.  I, however, sent out VIDETTE to sweep on the bearing for thirty miles and hailed a passing CATALINA on A/S sweep at 1610 and sent her out on the bearing too.  V/S was good.  
     
                                                                                                                  At 1110. . . . . .  
     
     

 

 
 
     
  S E C R E T.  
  Page 2. - Report of Senior Officer on CONVOY ONS 5.
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  Paragraph 5 (Continued)  
     
  At 1110, an H/F D/F bearing of a submarine close ahead was confirmed by a bearing from EG3 who was supporting S.C.127 and it was then evident that ONS 5 was also being shadowed.  SNOWFLAKE who was already on an extended screen ahead was ordered to search down the bearing and the course of the convoy was altered 35 dgs to starboard to 295.  At 1230, DUNCAN and TAY obtained a strong signal on ground ray bearing 275 dgs and I swept out ten miles at high speed, sighting nothing and returning by an evasive course.  Visibility was a maximum of three miles so that I think they were keeping touch by either HE of RDF as I found with HX 231.  At 1600, the convoy altered back to the original course, and at 1650, a ground ray signal 085 dgs indicated that the evasion had been successful and the U-boat was now astern of us.  TAY was sent out on the bearing and at 1641, VIDETTE sent out on another of 013 dgs, but both were fruitless.  
     
          6.  U-BOAT SIGHTED.  At 1838, another set of bearings indicated a U-boat close on the port bow.  I went out on maximum speed on bearing of 210 and sent TAY out on a parallel sweep further over to port.  During the sweep, another bearing was received of 178 and at 1920, a U-boat was sighted at a range of about two miles bearing 145 and proceeding at high speed.  The sea was rough and she was seen by the spray around the conning tower.  I altered course towards and at a range of about three thousand yards she dived.  RDF 271 which was operating did not obtain range.  I reduced to fifteen knots at an estimated range of 2000 yards but no contact was obtained in the heavy head sea and a ten charge pattern was fired by plot.  (See DUNCAN's narrative of incident DUNCAN Number One).  Wind was SS force 5, sea 45.  Position was 61 37N, 32 49W.  Operation OBSERVANT was then carried out with TAY, for one hour, but no firm contact was obtained, and at 2030, I rejoined the convoy leaving TAY to sit on the submarine until one hour after sunset.  I despatched my 282120Z and was in night station by 2130.  
     
          7.  Convoy's course was 240, wind SE and H/F D/F bearings indicated U-boats on the port bow beam and quarter and astern, so I stationed the escort as follows:  DUNCAN H and TAY Sugar - so leaving the starboard bow uncovered.  The trawlers were stationed one cable astern of the wing columns.  
     
          8.  FIRST NIGHT'S SERIES OF ATTEMPTED ATTACKS.  Convoy course 240, speed 7-1/2.  The first attempt was made at 2158, when SUNFLOWER on the port bow got an RDF contact bearing 170, range 3000 yards.  She ran out towards, but the U-boat dived, and as no A/S contact was obtained she dropped two charges and resumed station.  TAY was in station by 2330 and at 2245 (the second attempt) DUNCAN got an RDF contact bearing 100 - 3500 yards and turned to attack.  The U-boat dived at 2500 yards and A/S contact was picked up at 1500 but almost at once lost.  I dropped one charge, ran out and back over the firing position (See incident Dun No. 2) and was resuming station when at 2314 (the third attempt) I obtained an RDF contact bearing 295 dgs - 2800 yards.  
     
                                                                                                    I chased at. . . . . .  
     
     

 

 
 
     
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  Page 3. - Report of Senior Officer on CONVOY ONS 5.
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  Paragraph 8 (Continued)  
     
  I chased at best speed until at 2319 at range 1100 yards, the U-boat dived and I reduced to operating speed.  RDF plot gave U-boat's course as 320 and at 2322 A/S contact was obtained on last RDF bearing, her wake was sighted, and an accurate ten charge Minol pattern was dropped (see incident Dun No. 3).  At 2350, while running out after this attack another RDF contact was obtained bearing 146 dgs - 4800 yards (the fourth attempt).  I turned towards, chased and at 2340, the U-boat dived at range 3000 yards.  No A/S contact was obtained so one charge was dropped by plot.  (See incident No. 4).  THe chasing source was into the wind and sea - spray was flying mast high and the U-boat saw us coming earlier than when we had chased down sea.  
     
          9.  As I was turning to resume station after this attack, yet another RDF contact was picked up bearing 210 - 4000 yards at 2356 (the fifth attempt) and again I turned and chased at best speed.  The U-boat was heading for the convoy at about twelve knots, but at 0004, at range 1500 yards, he dived and I reduced to fifteen knots.  At 0003, the ship passed through a patch of oil about fifty yards diameter, so this U-boat may have been previously damaged.  Good A/S contact was obtained and an accurate ten charge Minol pattern fired.  At the moment of firing, his wake was clearly seen under the port bow.  (See incident Dun Mo. 5).  Contact was regained astern,  but lost at 800 yds each time I attempted to attack, so that the idea of a Hedgehog attack had to be abandoned.  I dropped two deep charges on him by plot and resumed station at high speed.  At 2254, I had ordered TAY to take position R in my absence.  I was back in station by 0110, an TAY ordered to resume position S.  
     
          10.  SNOWFLAKE in position P drove off the Sixth attempt, at 0159, sighting a U-boat on her port bow, range 1100 yards, steering towards the convoy.  SNOWFLAKE attacked and fired two ten charge patterns, a torpedo narrowly missing her in return.  (See incident Snow No. 1).  By 0148, SNOWFLAKE had dropped astern into the port quarter position so I moved up to the port beam in her place.  At 0154, TAY in position S, gained and attacked a good A/S contact  - a possible but unlikely seventh attempt.  
  By then, dawn was starting to break, and at 0216, I ordered day stations, so that ships would have plenty of time to gain bearing into the ahead stations for the expected dawn attack submerged.  The night had been a busy one, the convoy unscathed and I felt that the U-boats must be discouraged by our night tactics and might try day attack.  I drafted my 290500Z.  
     
          11.  DAY ATTACK in position 61 22N, 35 00W.  
          At 0320, after full daylight, TAY was sent to sweep twenty miles astern for (A) damaged U-boats (B) shadowing U-boats and (C) to get a better base line for H/F D/F bearings.  At 0338, and H/F D/F signal bearing 260 dgs in the ground ray was obtained - convoy's course was still 240 dgs - so at 0339, VIDETTE was sent out on the bearing to sweep 15 miles.  She was back in station (position B) by 0525 with nothing to report.  
          At 0529-1/2, the after lookout in DUNCAN saw No. 42 torpedoed, and at 0530, I ordered Artichoke.  Escorts were DE9 as follows:  NORTHERN SPRAY F, LOOSESTRIFE D, PINK C, VIDETTE B, DUNCAN L, SUNFLOWER M, SNOWFLAKE N, and NORTHERN GEM P.  TAY in S was astern sweeping.  L and B were adjusted to ahead of the third and ninth columns respectively.  Convoy of 43 ships in twelve columns, course 240, speed 7, wind light visibility V.G. except in squalls.  
     
                                                                                                                12.  On the way. . . . . .  
     
     

 

 
 
     
  S E C R E T.  
  Page 4. - Report of Senior Officer on CONVOY ONS 5.
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          18.  On the way down through the columns, I tried to find out which side the attack had come from, but reports were conflicting.  But at 0333, I saw a torpedo explode at the end of its run on the port quarter of the convoy, so that the attack must have come from the starboard side.  I accordingly cancelled Artichoke, and ordered escort to resume station except for Snowflake, who I told to escort a straggler five miles astern, NORTHERN GEM who was attacking a contact astern of the position of the torpedoing and DUNCAN.  I investigated NORTHERN GEM's contact without result for five minutes and then carried out OBSERVANT around the estimated position of firing.  On looking over records, and estimating the position of the torpedo exploding at the end of its run, I am inclined to think that the submarine must have fired from close to her target - the course of the torpedo was reported as 180 dgs, and therefore NORTHERN GEM may have been in contact with the U-boat, and my OBSERVANT carried out in the wrong position.  It of course depends on whether they used air or electric torpedoes.  
          13.  NORTHERN GEM lost contact after her attack and my OBSERVANT was fruitless, and at 0820, an H/F D/F bearing was received bearing 214 dgs.  This seemed like another attack pending, so I abandoned OBSERVANT, ordered SNOWFLAKE, who had been attacking a contact near her straggler, to rejoin at best speed and told TAY who was in sight astern to do the same.  I increased to 23 knots and at 0700, passed NORTHERN GEM who was taking off the survivors of 42 who, after continuing at convoy speed, had started to sink at 0620.  I ordered her to be careful her C.B.'s were disposed of safely (my 2906470).  Also at 0621, I ordered VIDETTE to sweep out along bearing 214 dgs.  By 0715, all escorts were back in day station, VIDETTE having sighted nothing on her sweep.  I also warned escorts that attack was probable from the port side.  Later in the forenoon SNOWFLAKE attacked a contact on the port bow - no attack developed, so it is not possible to know whether this was in fact a submarine.  I drafted my 291152Z.  
     
          14.  NORTHERN GEM did not rejoin until the afternoon, in poor visibility, and her R/T signals having been indecypherable, it was not until 1315 that I learnt that NORTHERN GEM had failed to sink the wreck and that although the C.B.'s had been destroyed, the R/V was still on the charts and the log had been left onboard.  I therefore ordered TAY to return and sink her, rejoining before dark.  
     
          15.  H/F D/F activity showed that at least three and probably four U-boats were still in touch but sweeps by TAY and VIDETTE failed to locate them.  Visibility cleared for an hour in the afternoon and the H/F signals ceased - the weather deteriorated fast - air cover was cancelled and a full gale from ahead was soon blowing.  ORIBI, ordered to support, was in R/T touch but could not join before midnight  
     
                                                                           More H/F D/F activity at 1630. . . . . .  
     
     

 

 
 
     
  S E C R E T.  
  Page 5. - Report of Senior Officer on CONVOY ONS 5.
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  Paragraph 15 (Continued)  
     
  More H/F D/F activity at 1630, showed that two U-boats were working up to the ahead positions from the port beam and quarter.  One on 163 dgs and the other 225 dgs - the last straight into the heavy wind and sea, the other across it, so I sent SUNFLOWER out on that bearing.  She did not sight anything, but dropped charges to discourage further attacks.  There was then a silence of seven hours on H/F till 2307.  
     
          16.  Meanwhile ORIBI was being homed from astern and joined by 2300, and TAY was reporting  attacking a submarine 49 miles astern of the convoy.  Owing to this delay, she did not rejoin until 0600/30 (See incident TAY No.   ).  
          I strengthened the ahead and bow positions, from which direction attack could only come, placing SUNFLOWER, DUNCAN and VIDETTE on the port bow, ahead and starboard bow respectively and leaving the quarters unprotected.  At 2307, a close ground ray signal bearing 234 dgs (convoy course 229 dgs) - I warned escorts accordingly and thirty minutes after the signal, I dropped charges, calculating that the U-boat originating the signal would be near the ahead position by then.  This appeared to be successful, as no attack dewveloped and DUNCAN obtained an A/Scontact at 1100 yards, five minutes after the charges had been dropped.  Contact was soon lost and I dropped another charge on its position by plot.  
          At about the same time, a close bearing was received from the port beam.  Escorts were warned and SNOWFLAKE in position P ordered to drop charges - she also left some delay action charges in the position.  No attack developed.  
     
          17.  I took up day stations very early, but fortunately no dawn attack took place, and no more ground ray signals were received for twenty hours so that the SCARE tactics appeared to be successful.  
     
          18.  A liberator was homed and arrived at 0445/30, but unfortunately she returned to base almost at once owing to a temporary drop in the visibility.  I fuelled ORIBI in the forenoon, but the weather got bad again by noon, and no other escort was able to get oil.  
     
          19.  By 1900 another full gale was blowing from ahead, and I ordered the same night stations as the previous night.  I also drafted my 301700Z.  The first incident occurred at 2306 when Snowflake on the port beam, detected, illuminated with starshell, sighted and drove off a U-boat.  (See incident Snow No.   )  H/F signals had been reported from that bearing an hour previously as "distant" - I think they were probably ground ray, otherwise it will be the first case of a night attack I have met without previous H/F warning.  At 2314, a very close ground ray signal was received bearing 234 degrees, (Convoy course 230 degrees) so Vidette, in position C was ordered to drop charges and at 2345, I dropped two as well.  (I was in position A).  Dropping charge was a hazardous business as the maximum speed up sea was about nine knots.  I also ordered Pink on the port quarter fo drop charges at 0015, as I reckoned that Snowflake U-boat would be near her.  No attack on the convoy took place and no more ground ray H/F signals were received while Duncan was still in company.  (for another three days).  I drafted my 010801Z which however was not passed, due to bad H/F conditions, till the evening.  
     
          20.  The weather got steadily worse all day of May 1st, until the wind was force 10 by the afternoon.  The convoy became badly scattered and most ships were out of control.  I drafted my 012000Z.  
     
                                                                                                             Two U.S. . . . . . .  
     
     

 

 
 
     
  S E C R E T.  
  Page 6. - Report of Senior Officer on CONVOY ONS 5.
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  Paragraph 20 (Continued)  
     
  Two U.S. Army planes from Greenland were sighted in the forenoon, one of whom subsequently attacked a submarine some 80 miles to the South.  They would answer neither V/S, R/T, or W/T so were of little use to us.  Two Liberators from Iceland were homed during the dog watch (See Appendix C) - and gave valuable aid in appalling weather.  
     
          21.  At dawn on 2nd May, the weather had moderated and one Liberator and most escorts were busy rounding up stragglers.  It would have been possible to fuel then, but the oiler was constantly altering course to avoid growlers and pack ice, and when we were clear, the weather got impossibly bad again.  By 0900Z, twenty ships were in company with the commodore and I was in R/T touch with EG3 whom I homed and who joined at 2000Z.  Papers were transferred and the support group formed an extended screen across the front of the convoy during the night.  Tay and Pink were astern each with his team of stragglers.  The night was quiet except for the weather.  
     
          22.  By next morning, May 3rd; another gale was blowing - two ships of the support group were on the extended screen on each bow and Offa was assisting rounding up stragglers.  About thirty-two ships were accountred for.  I was getting very anxious about my fuel and as it was clear that there was no possibility of fuelling at sea, I handed over S.O. close escort to Tay (by R/T) at 1400 and proceeded to St. Johns Newfoundland at best speed which was eight knots.  See my 030801Z and my 032201Z.  
     
          23.  By the forenoon of May 4th, the weather had improved and I was able to steam at economical speed.  Duncan arrived at St. Johns with 4 percent fuel remaining, being assisted by the Labrador current and unexpectedly fine weather.  A separate report is being forwarded on Duncan's fuel consumption.  
     
     
     
     
     
                                                                                      
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

 


 

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