|[TNA – ADM 199/1032]|
Department of National Defence
|In reply please quote No. I..24-9|
c/o G.P.O., London.
17th. July 1943
I have the honour to submit for your consideration the following report of proceedings of H.M.C.S. “IROQUOIS”, under my command, for the period 9th July to 13th July, 1943, with attached enclosures:-
I. Report of Aircraft attack on Convoy “FAITH”,
11th July, vide ACI Art. 41.
II. Report of Survivors, vide ACI Art. 42, including Nominal List.
III. Track chart from Plot.
IV. Copies of important signals.
V. Personnel whose conduct and initiative was outstanding.
Note: All times are Zone minus one except where otherwise indicated.
Situation Prior to Attack
At 0730B July 9th IROQUOIS slipped from No. 7 buoy, Hamoaze, Devonport, and proceeded to sea in accordance with Commander-in-Chief, Plymouth’s 081235B July 1943.
2. Rendezvous was made with convoy “FAITH” at 1958B, July 10th in position 47º 10? N, 15º 09? W.
3. The three ships of the convoy were in line abreast, the S.S. DUCHESS OF YORK on the starboard wing, S.S. CALIFORNIA (Commodore) centre, and S.S. PORT FAIRY on the port wing. H.M.S. MOYOLA (S.O. Escort) was screening on the starboard bow of the DUCHESS OF YORK and H.M.S. DOUGLAS on the port bow of PORT FAIRY, zigzagging with the convoy. Course of the convoy was 182º, speed 14 knots.
4. IROQUOIS instructed MOYOLA to retain the duties of S.O. Escort and that IROQUOIS would take up position about 3000 yards ahead of convoy. It was considered desirable that MOYOLA should retain control of the escort as he was to remain with the convoy to its final destination. However, he was interrogated as to his Day and Night Policies, Radar, Illumination, etc. and relevant advice was tendered and accepted by him.
5. IROQUOIS suggested to MOYOLA that when H.M.S. SWALE joined (in accordance with F.O.C. Gibraltar’s 100023B) it would be advisable that she be positioned on the port beam of PORT FAIRY whence she could take up IROQUOIS position when IROQUOIS was absent from the screen to make ahead sweeps before dark and before first light.
6. At 1330A July 11th an American Liberator Aircraft was sighted. It was sighted again from time to time throughout the afternoon but had disappeared some time before the attack developed. At 1350 a Catalina Flying Boat was sighted and was ordered to patrol “COBRA” at 15 miles distance.
7. The weather was clear, sky cloudless. Wind W.S.W. force 3, Visibility extreme. Sea light with moderate westerly swell. Barometer steady at 1021.1. Temperature – air 73º, sea 68º.
Sighting of Hostile Aircraft and the Attack
8. At 1910A a W/T message from a patrolling aircraft was interrupted reporting a Fokke Wulf aircraft sighted in position 40º 38? N, 13º 33? W, course 360º, height 200 feet. This position was about 50 miles to the southward.
9. At 2014 warning message “Blue Faith” was received from F.O.C. Gibraltar.
10. At about 2030 a black flag was seen to be hoisted in MOYOLA and a few minutes later, at about 2035, an aircraft was seen approaching, head on, from the north west. At first this was still thought to be the Liberator as at this distance the tail, and other distinguishing marks could not be seen. But on drawing abreast of the DUCHESS OF YORK it turned away westward into the sun and was at once recognised as a F.W. 200K. IROQUOIS was at full action stations at this time but fire was not opened as the plane was well outside range.
11. Contact was held by Radar Type 291 on this plane and it was at times sighted shadowing at about 10,000 feet up sun. The Catalina previously mentioned was sighted below the F.W. at about 4,000 feet and made a shadowing report T.O.R. 2051 (T.O.O. was corrupt). The Catalina was not seen again until some time later.
12. At 2055 IROQUOIS W/T office intercepted homing signals made by the F.W. bearing 292 and 299, on 444 k/cs. At about 2100 a second F.W. was seen to join the first on bearing 315º followed a few minutes later by a third. All three were about 10,000 feet and kept fairly close together. They were at extreme visibility distance, and at times were lost sight of in the sun.
NOTE: The following paragraph describes the events seen from IROQUOIS’s bridge as accurately as it has been possible to reconstruct them. Times, positions, number of hits, etc. in some cases may not be exact.
13. At about 2111 one F.W. commenced his attacking
run down sun and down wind (W.N.W. force 2 to 3) and attacked the DUCHESS
OF YORK with four bombs of which two hit amidships between the funnels,
one starboard and one port. The remaining two bombs straddled her with
near misses. IROQUOIS opened fire at 2112, and together with MOYOLA, fired
continuously from the time the run commenced but most bursts appeared short
and under. Height of attack about 10,000 to 12,000 feet.
14. At 2114 IROQUOIS made enemy report. T.O.O. 112214B.
15. A few minutes later at about 2117, another F.W. carried out a similar attack on CALIFORNIA, scoring two hits. CALIFORNIA appeared to settle slightly by the bow.
16. At 2125 IROQUOIS made a first amplifying report, “Two ships appear to have been hit by bombs”.
17. At about 2127 the third F.W. came in from the starboard beam, down sun, and dropped two bombs which straddled the PORT FAIRY amidships, both being near misses.
18. DUCHESS OF YORK was now burning furiously and dropping astern.
19. The Catalina aircraft was last seen about this time in the Eastward where DOUGLAS was firing at a F.W. which had just carried out an attack.
20. At about 2131 a further attack was made on the DUCHESS OF YORK, two bombs falling across her bows at a short distance. As before, the attack was delivered at high altitude out of the sun.
21. At about 2136 a F.W. was seen levelling out as though for a run, apparently on IROQUOIS, from the starboard quarter, at about 6,000 feet. (All previous attacks appeared to be at about 10,000 feet). My twin 4in H.A. and multiple pom-pom put up a heavy barrage and the plane turned sharply away. No bombs were seen to fall. It is possible that this attack was intended for PORT FAIRY who was about six cables on my port quarter.
22. Very shortly after the fifth attack, at about 2139, a F.W. was seen running in for another attack on IROQUOIS from my starboard bow. “Full ahead” was ordered and violent avoiding action taken. Two bombs were reported to have fallen about 200 yards astern by a Petty Officer and several ratings. They were not seen from the bridge as fire was being shifted to another target at this time.
23. The three enemy planes were now withdrawing to the eastward and at about 2207 tracer was seen on the horizon in this quarter. This is presumed to have been fired at the retiring planes by SWALE who was joining from the south east.
24. As soon as the attacks were seen to have ended MOYOLA closed DUCHESS OF YORK and DOUGLAS closed CALIFORNIA to pick up survivors. IROQUOIS commenced a circling A/S sweep to westward and northward of the burning ships. At 2210 PORT FAIRY was ordered by me to remain close to IROQUOIS, who then proceeded to close DUCHESS OF YORK.
25. It was not known how many crew and passengers were in the bombed ships and I could not therefore estimate whether the escorting warships would be able to accommodate all survivors. Further, it was considered unwise to send PORT FAIRY on alone, SWALE had not yet joined and an escort could not be spared, PORT FAIRY was therefore kept close by, both to embark any surplus of survivors and for her own safety.
26. At 2216 IROQUOIS broke off her A/S sweep and at 2220 stopped off DUCHESS OF YORK’s starboard quarter, immediately beginning to embark survivors. She remained stopped in this vicinity with only minor movements until 0030. During this time some 620 survivors were embarked from boats, rafts and from the water.
27. IROQUOIS ordered SWALE, on joining at 2235, to carry out an A/S sweep around the rescue party.
28. The starboard motor cutter was lowered as soon as the first press of survivors had been handled and did valuable work picking up small groups and individual survivors scattered about the scene of the action. The whaler was also lowered at a later time and effected several rescues.
29. During rescue operations Admiralty’s 120154B was received, giving warning that attack on the convoy might be renewed. Also, numerous H/F D/F reports by U-boats in the area were intercepted by MOYOLA and reported to me. This was disturbing but the rescue must go on.
30. At 0119 I decided fate could not be tempted much longer and despatched PORT FAIRY to Casablanca under escort of SWALE. (My 120019). IROQUOIS then asked MOYOLA and DOUGLAS the number of survivors on board each, and gave them their orders. A final search was made and two more survivors were picked up. DOUGLAS was ordered to torpedo hulks and MOYOLA was ordered to take DOUGLAS under his orders and clear the vicinity as soon as this was done. IROQUOIS proceeded at 0135, steering 180º at 18 knots. At 0150, course was altered to 235º to evade submarines that might be on the convoy’s original route. At 0235 speed was increased to 28 knots and course was altered to 180º for Casablanca, as it was considered we had successfully avoided submarines in the immediate vicinity.
Passage to Casablanca
31. As soon as the scene of action was left, efforts were directed to restoring normal organization and routine as far as possible under very crowded conditions and the survivors were made comfortable as circumstances would wallow. Fortunately the good weather and calm seas continued, greatly facilitating this work.
32. During the night and following morning three of the survivors died of shock, exposure and burns. The bodies were conveyed to Casablanca for identification and burial.
33. At 1630 the following day, July 12th, I addressed the survivors over the loud hailer, welcoming them on board and warning them particularly to maintain absolute secrecy about their experiences when once ashore.
34. IROQUOIS arrived Casablanca on the forenoon of Tuesday, July 13th, and secured alongside the oil jetty at 1007.
35. The ship was met by Officers of the U.S. Navy and Army and the British Naval Liaison Officer. Arrangements were at once completed for the landing of survivors and for the completing of oil and stores. These operations were smoothly under way in a very short space of time. By noon the ship was clear of survivors and by 1600 was again ready for sea.
36. I was much impressed by the exceptionally
efficient and helpful service rendered the ship at such short notice by
all the authorities with whom we had dealings at this port.
37. The general behaviour, co-operation and initiative of the officers and ship’s company during the action and the outstandingly successful rescue work which followed was of the highest order, the more so as this was the first action in which the ship has been engaged since commissioning.
38. Observing that another attack was believed imminent, and that U-boats were known to be homing to the scene, it is considered that the whole rescue operation was carried out in a most seamanlike manner and that the handling of all ships was most commendable.
39. It is considered that in future when boats and rafts are cleared of survivors all lights should be extinguished, thus avoiding attempted rescues from empty boats and rafts later on.
40. The whistles and individual lights were invaluable in assisting the rescue. The whistles were particularly valuable because they indicated the presence of live survivors.
41. Many small rafts were without paddles.
42. A westerly swell made boatwork alongside difficult. Screws frequently could not be worked to keep the ship heading into the swell owing to the great numbers of swimming survivors, boats and rafts clustered alongside and around the stern.
43. Scrambling nets proved invaluable with fenders outboard of them, so that boats and rafts coming alongside were kept a foot or more clear of the ship’s side thus enabling two strong-armed sailors on each net to wait for the boat or raft to rise with the swell, then lift the survivors bodily clear and deposit them on the deck. No losses or injuries were sustained in getting survivors inboard, which is considered remarkable under existing conditions.
44. Merchant ships were slow in taking avoiding action, if indeed any was taken.
45. It is considered that had this convoy had any form of air protection by either shore based or ship borne aircraft it is unlikely the attacks would have been made.
46. Friendly aircraft are not consistent in their recognition procedure. Unless this is improved serious consequences will result. Many friendly planes detected by Radar do not show I.F.F., and therefore a great doubt exists as to their intentions until they have been identified.
47. Both V/S and the W/T departments operated smoothly and efficiently and enemy reports, which were sent out under rather trying conditions, were rapidly cleared and reported cleared to the bridge.
48. The advisability of breaking W/T silence in such an area is questioned. (SWALE’s 111615B and MOYOLA’s 112003B in reply).
49. Among the survivors there was a surprisingly small number of injuries. The majority of casualties were first degree burns of the hands and face and most of them not of a very serious nature. There were about fifteen cases of lacerations and puncture wounds apparently caused by bomb splinters and flying debris. There were three deaths, one from drowning when brought on board, one half an hour rescue from shock and exposure and the third twelve hours later from shock and severe burns.
50. Exceptionally valuable aid in treating the casualties was given by Dr Bowden of DUCHESS OF YORK, F/O Powell and F/Sgt. Eastham of the R.A.F. who were among the survivors.
51. Collapsible canvas cots were extremely useful and more could well have been used had they been available.
52. The added topweight taken on in the form of survivors (roughly computed at 50 tons) had a perceptibly adverse effect on stability and measures were accordingly instituted to keep as many as possible on the lower deck and to discourage disproportionate numbers from congregating on either side of the ship.
I have the honour to be,
Your obedient servant.
[Received C-in-C Plymouth, 18 July 1943]
Convoy FAITH was unlike a North Atlantic convoy
in that it consisted of two former passenger liners - SS DUCHESS OF YORK
and SS CALIFORNIA - now converted for use as troopships, and a merchant
vessel - SS PORT FAIRY. They were escorted by two destroyers, HMS DOUGLAS
and HMCS IROQUOIS, and one frigate, HMS MOYOLA. So this was a small convoy
whose main object was the transportation of service personnel and their
kit, plus a small number of civilians.
The DUCHESS OF YORK, the CALIFORNIA and the PORT FAIRY sailed in line abreast with the CALIFORNIA (Commodore) in the centre flanked by the PORT FAIRY to port , and the DUCHESS OF YORK to starboard. IROQUOIS sailed dead ahead of the CALIFORNIA at a distance of 4000 yds, with DOUGLAS out on her port wing and MOYOLA to starboard. As best as it is known, DOUGLAS and MOYOLA conducted periodic A/S sweeps as thought necessary.
This was a fast convoy, sailing at 14 knots, and speed was their main defence. But it was a mistake to route the convoy too close to the Portuguese coast and within range of FWs based at Merignac in Bordeaux.
If anyone remembers the sinking of the DUCHESS OF YORK and the CALIFORNIA, pleas contact Tim Gates: <tim.gates1(at)gmail.com>
Contributor: Tim Gates <tim.gates1(at)gmail.com>