Daily Event for February 27, 2015

Convoy WP-300 sailed from Milford Haven, Wales on Feb. 25, 1943 bound for the Solent. This could hardly be called a convoy, only two merchantmen and few small escorts. This was apparently the final leg for the cargo ships, which had just crossed the Atlantic. As they worked their way toward their destination another convoy, PW-300, was supposed to pass them in the opposite direction. It was a little past midnight on February 27, 1943 when a group of S-boats from the 5th Schnellboote Flotilla based on Guernsey Island attacked in the dark.

The attack occurred in Lyme Bay and the Germans were quick and deadly taking out four of the ships in short order. The 4,858 ton freighter Modavia was torpedoed, but remained afloat, but at a reduced speed. Half an hour later she was abandoned and sank, all fifty-four men on board were rescued. Two of the escorts were also sunk. HM Trawler Lord Hailsham FY-109 and HNoMS Harstad, a Norwegian minesweeping whaler. I have no first hand details of the sinkings but the loss of life for the small ships was heavy. Ty/Lt. Peter H. G. Clark, RNVR, commanding officer of Lord Hailsham lost his ship and eighteen of his men. Clark and eighteen others were picked up from the sea. (For a first hand account of the sinking see message 1 below.) The Norwegian ship went down leaving only one survivor from the twenty-five who had been in the ship.

The forth ship lost was HM LST-381. The Admiralty just listed her as missing presumed lost as they had no intelligence about her fate. However she had in fact been torpedoed by S-85 and brought to a stop. One man was killed, but the eleven others were taken prisoner by the Germans. The ship was then dispatched with a second torpedo and S-85 returned to their Channel Islands base.

The British mounted a vigorous search effort for survivors, but found nothing but bodies, they were pulled from the water and given appropriate burials. While it was at first feared that several more ships had been lost, after contact was established with PW-300 it was learned the only casualties were in the eastbound convoy.
© 2015 Michael W. Pocock
MaritimeQuest.com





Roll of Honour
In memory of those who lost their lives in
HM Trawler Lord Hailsham FY-109
"As long as we embrace them in our memory, their spirit will always be with us"

Name
Rate
Notes
Atkins, James
Leading Cook (RNPS)
Bower, Walter
Seaman (RNPS)
Buxton, Sydney F.
Seaman (RNPS)
Cany, John S.
Ordinary Telegraphist (RN)
Dwyer, Thomas
Leading Steward (RNPS)
Harris, John
Stoker (RNPS)
Horton, Frederick
Stoker (RNPS)
Large, Albert S.
Ordinary Seaman (RNPS)
Lewis, Frank F.
Stoker (RNPS)
Lout, John A.
Seaman (RNPS)
McGuire, Jack F.
Seaman (RNPS)
Shaw, John
Stoker (RNPS)
Stevens, Frank M.
Leading Cook (RNPS)
Tuley, Joseph
Seaman (RNPS)
Watson, James
Chief Engineman (RN)
Mentioned in Despatches
(Posthumously)
Wilson, William S.
Ordinary Seaman (RNPS)
Wingrove, Albert G.
Seaman (RNPS)
Woodhouse, Robert
Stoker (RNPS)


Roll of Honour
In memory of those who lost their lives in
HNoMS Harstad
"As long as we embrace them in our memory, their spirit will always be with us"

Name
Rate
Notes
Andersen, Gunnar
U/dm
Kongelig Norsk Marine
Grotle, Arne O.
U/dm
Kongelig Norsk Marine
Hals, Gunnar
U/dm
Kongelig Norsk Marine
Hauge, Einar J.
U/dm
Kongelig Norsk Marine
Haugen, Trygve
U/dm
Kongelig Norsk Marine
**
Jensen, Krisrian G.
U/dm
Kongelig Norsk Marine
Lane, Norman
Ordinary Signalman
Royal Navy
Lerstad, Arne W.
U/mm
Kongelig Norsk Marine
Lindley, Duncan S.
Telegraphist
Royal Navy
Longva, Erling S.
U/dm
Kongelig Norsk Marine
MacKenzie, Ian W.
Telegraphist
Royal Navy
Olavesen, Karl E.
U/mm
Kongelig Norsk Marine
Olsen, Erling
U/lt (M)
Kongelig Norsk Marine
Pedersen, Olaf O.
U/l dm
Kongelig Norsk Marine
Remme, Erling J.
U/dm
Kongelig Norsk Marine
Sandøy, Alfred K.
U/dm
Kongelig Norsk Marine
Seggie, George C.
Signalman
Royal Navy
Skogen, Aksel J.
U/mm
Kongelig Norsk Marine
Strømmen, Søren J.
U/mm
Kongelig Norsk Marine
*
Thomsen, Wilhelm
U/lt
Kongelig Norsk Marine
Thorsby, Rolf
U/kvm
Kongelig Norsk Marine
Unsted, Dennis G.
Wireman
Royal Navy
Vartdal, Sigurd
U/f
Kongelig Norsk Marine
***
Wattø, Ragnar K.
U/kvm
Kongelig Norsk Marine
       
*
Commanding Officer
**
Kregsmedaljen (Posthumously)
***
Kregsmedaljen


Roll of Honour
In memory of
Ordinary Seaman John Green, R.N.
who lost his life in
HM LST-381
"As long as we embrace him in our memory, his spirit will always be with us"



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1.
Nov. 17, 2020

The below text is an excerpt from the Memoirs of John Makin, my grandfather who was a Lieutenant in HM Trawler Lord Hailshan when the ship was sunk.

Henry Spilberg

I think the Lord Hailsham did visit Portland, perhaps late 1941, just before I joined her. But this was a one-off trip, as our usual run was escorting Channel convoys between the Isle of Wight, through Lyme Bay and down to Land's End, then up the north Cornish Coast to the Bristol Channel. The Hailsham was one of twenty to thirty armed trawlers of Plymouth command, based on Devonport. We operated in escort groups of three to four ships, although one of the four would be boiler-cleaning at any one time. Usually for the passage between Falmouth and Portland we would be joined by a Hunt class destroyer as additional defence against aircraft and E-boats; the usual addition to our group was the Polish Krakowiak.

Our escort “cycle” was to leave Plymouth and rendezvous with the westbound convoy at Eddystone, where the relieved escort group would detach and return to Plymouth. We would then sail the convoy into Falmouth Harbour, leaving the next morning with the new Commodore and proceed round the Lizard and Land's End and up the north Cornish coast. North-east of Lundy the convoy would trifurcate, one part going to Milford Haven, the second to Swansea and the third to Barry and Cardiff, with one trawler escorting each section (we took it in turns to sample the fleshpots of Swansea as opposed to, say, Milford). We would overnight in port and leave the next morning with our section of the east-bound convoy joining together off Lundy, then south to Land's End and east to the Lizard, Eddystone, Start Point, Lyme Bay, the Bill [Portland Bill], Durlston Head and on to the Needles where the merchant ships proceed to Southampton and the escorts to anchor off Cowes. The following morning we left the Solent with a west-bound convoy through Lyme Bay, round Start to Eddystone, where in turn we were relieved by a new escort group and then returned to Plymouth. Three days in Plymouth and we were once again sailing to Eddystone to take over a west-bound convoy. A cycle of ten days: seven on escort duty and three in harbour, with a boiler-clean (we were coal burners) every six to seven weeks.

Unvarying then, yes, but rarely if ever dull. We were operating in coastal waters, in swept channels only two cables wide. (There was no radar in 1942.) There was a total black-out in effect ashore with selected lighthouses only flashing for ten minutes on the hour when a convoy was in the vicinity. With a crew of 40, the escorts worked watch on, watch off with the merchant ships – coasters, colliers, Dutch schuyts and the like – stretched in two long columns, one escort ahead, one astern and one abeam, with ships joining and leaving constantly at the change of ports and harbours. There was always the possibility of air attack by day and, with the aircraft using flares, by night. Calm nights brought the risk of E-boat attack, and the move of the E-boat Base from Dieppe in 1942 to the Channel Islands extended the E-boat operating area as far west as Land's End. But, as I have said, there was usually Hunt class destroyer reinforcement on this southern stretch, whilst in obvious E-boat (i.e. calm) weather we had MTBs or SGBs patrolling in mid-channel.

Coming to the Lord Hailsham's last convoy, (1) we must have left Swansea in the morning of February 25 th 1943. We shared the Modavia's misgivings, as any large merchant ship was bound to attract the attention of German aircraft and/or E-boats. On 26 th , having passed Land's End and the Lizard, we were joined, not by Krakowiak but by a Royal Norwegian ship, the Harstad.

As usual in calm weather in the Eddystone – Start – Portland stretch, we went to action stations for the night, and had stationed ourselves on the Modavia 's starboard (i.e. seaward) beam to give her some extra protection. We rounded Start Point about midnight, and it was about half an hour later, in that ENE leg into Lyme Bay, that we received a radio report of E-boats in the vicinity. The captain went to the chart table to plot their position and I had the con, and it was that moment that the Modavia was torpedoed and at the same instance the Asdic operator reported a torpedo approaching on our starboard bow. I immediately ordered hard a-starboard in an effort to stem the torpedo's track. But the Hailsham was hit right forward on the fore-peak and it is my belief that there were two torpedoes, and as one passed down the port side the Hailsham swung into the second. The Hailsham began to settle immediately and sank in two to three minutes, but the Cox'n, Dick Allison, and I were able to release the port Carley float before slipping over the side and swimming to join some seven or eight men already clinging to the Carley float. As I recall, it was about this time that the third ship, the Harstad , was hit; she was an oil-burner and simply exploded like a rocket.

We paddled the float around, picking up more Hailsham survivors, until we had some fifteen or sixteen in the float, which had positive buoyancy, but with its grating deck under water we were sitting or squatting in two feet of water. It was a still night and most of us were wearing duffels and other warm clothing, but unhappily one survivor, Bill Bower, died in the night in my arms from exposure. Later in the night we were able to transfer three or four men to a part of a damaged Carley float that we found and hitched on to ours.

One amusing incident. Sometime in the middle of that long night – the moon was just rising – we saw the silhouettes of two warships. From our literally sea-level viewpoint they looked huge – obviously two rescue destroyers, looking for us. So, in the best “In Which We Serve” tradition, we began to paddle towards them, as I led the chaps in a spirited rendering of “Roll Out the Barrel”, when the awful truth – whether the smell of their diesel, or the cut of their jibs I don't know, but we realised they were not “ours” at all, but two E-boats snooping around to see what they could find. Now it was commonly held at that time that the Germans would take the officers as POWs for questioning, so I hastily whipped off my cap and urged the chaps to say nothing about having an officer in the float. We kept quiet and still, and either they did not see us or did not want to know us, for they passed us by and chugged off into the night. At one time we saw the Hailsham 's sea-boat, but of the LCT I know nothing, except for what I read in the short account in Lund and Ludlam's “Trawlers go to War”. (2)

And that really was that. We spent the rest of the night trying to keep warm and cheer each other up, and were picked up soon after first light by Dartmouth MLs [motor launches], as were the Captain and First Lieutenant and the three or four men in the sea boat, I suppose a total of 21 or 22 survivors and 18 killed. We were put in Britannia 's sick-bay for observation, but later in the afternoon I was sent back to Plymouth where I stayed in the base-ship until after the Court of Inquiry. A fortnight's survivor's leave, and then I went back to sea in HMT Sapper and later HMT Guardsman , serving on escort/rescue ship duties in the North Atlantic until the end of the war.

(1) Convoy WP300 was John's eastbound convoy; the simultaneous westbound convoy was PW300.

(2) The vessel John refers to was a Mark 3 type Landing Craft Tank, LCT 381, also sunk during the attack. She was torpedoed with the loss of one life (Ordinary Seaman John Green); the 11 remaining crew were taken prisoner.