Convoy battles


Homeward from Halifax (North Atlantic)

24 Aug 1940 - 26 Aug 1940

The Convoy20 ships
First sightingOn 24 Aug 1940 by U-48

Western Approaches local escort: Canadian destroyer HMCS Skeena (D 59) (LtCdr J.C. Hibbard, RCN) and British corvette HMS Godetia (K 72) (LtCdr G.V. Legassick, RNR)
Joined section HX-65A as reinforcement on 26 August: British destroyers HMS Javelin (F 61) (Cdr A.F. Pugsley, RN) and HMS Jaguar (F 34) (LtCdr J.F.W. Hine, RN), until 27 August.


U-28 Kptlt. Günter Kuhnke, U-32* Oblt. Hans Jenisch, U-48* KrvKpt. Hans Rudolf Rösing, U-124* Kptlt. Georg-Wilhelm Schulz.

* U-boats that fired torpedo or used the deck gun

The battle

On the evening of 24 August, the main convoy HX-65 split with 20 ships proceeding to Methil in section HX-65A and 25 ships proceeding to Liverpool in section HX-65B.

During the early hours of 25 August, U-48 located HX-65A and attacked, sinking Empire Merlin and Athelcrest before submerging to evade an unsuccessful depth charge attack by HMS Godetia. Contact with this section was regained when U-28 and U-32 sighted the convoy at almost the same time at about 11.00 hours, but one of them was seen by the British steam tanker British Lord and the escorts advised a Coastal Command Sunderland flying boat of its presence. However, it failed to find either of the shadowers as both U-boats had already submerged after spotting the aircraft over the convoy. At 11.39 hours, U-32 fired a spread of two torpedoes at the ships but missed and was then kept on distance by the escorts, while U-28 was unable to manoeuvre into a firing position and never engaged the convoy.

On the evening of 25 August, U-124 made contact with HX-65A and attacked during the night. She first missed a destroyer with a stern torpedo and then claimed the sinking of four ships with four torpedoes. In fact, Harpalyce (the ship of the convoy commodore) and Fircrest were sunk and Stakesby was badly damaged, but later towed in. HMS Godetia searched and obtained a good contact on the submerged U-124, which escaped without damage because the contact was lost after the initial depth charge attack.

After the last U-boat attack, two destroyers were sent from Scapa Flow to reinforce the escort of convoy HX-65A. However there were no further U-boat attacks but four ships from the convoy were bombed and damaged by eight German Ju88 aircraft (KG 30 based in Aalborg) off Kinnaird Head at dusk on 26 August. The Greek steam merchant Nellie and the British steam merchant City of Hankow safely reached port, but the British motor merchant Cape York was abandoned and sank under tow on 27 August, while the British steam merchant Remuera sank after being hit by an airborne torpedo when the convoy was attacked by four German He115 aircraft (KüFlGr 506 based in Stavanger) a few hours later.

The low cloud base and varying visibility on 24 and 25 August kept many of the scheduled Coastal Command patrols grounded. Sunderland aircraft were available and on 25 August Hudson aircraft from 233 Squadron were also made available. The timely arrival of a Sunderland over the section HX-65A on the morning of 25 August probably prevented both U-28 and U-32 reaching more advantageous attacking positions.

Article compiled by Mark McShane & Rainer Kolbicz

Ships hit from convoy HX-65A

Date U-boat Commander Name of ship Tons Nat.Map
25 Aug 1940U-48Hans Rudolf Rösing Athelcrest6,825brA
25 Aug 1940U-48Hans Rudolf Rösing Empire Merlin5,763brB
25 Aug 1940U-124Georg-Wilhelm Schulz Stakesby (d.)3,900brC
25 Aug 1940U-124Georg-Wilhelm Schulz Harpalyce5,169brD
25 Aug 1940U-124Georg-Wilhelm Schulz Fircrest5,394brE

4 ships sunk (23,151 tons) and 1 ship damaged (3,900 tons).

We have a picture of this vessel.
(d.) means the ship was damaged.

77 convoys on route HX were hit by U-boats in the war. Read more about them.

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