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Ariecho

September 21 - Focus: Convoy HX-72

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2,242
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General

Another sad day for merchant ships, but very limited military-to-military action to report.

 

All dates between 1939 and 1945 unless specified

  • 38 Allied boats and ships were laid down on a September 21

  • 25 Allied boats and ships were launched on a September 21

  • 30 Allied boats and ships were launched on a September 21

  • 4 Allied warships were lost on a September 21: 1 on each year between 1941 and 1944

  • Over 88,000 tons were sunk on a September 21.  Over 61,000 (of those) tons were sunk on September 21, 1940

  • 4 U-boats were laid down on a September 21

  • 3 U-boats were launched

  • 3 U-boats were commissioned

  • On September 21, 1927, HMS (CA) Dorsetshire was laid down
1940

 

On September 9, 1940, convoy HX-72 left Halifax with Liverpool as its destination.  HX convoys were eastbound convoys set to bring war material to Great Britain.  The first one (HX-1) left on September 16, 1939.  The last one (HX-337) sailed in February 1945.  While the early HX convoys left from Halifax, they eventually started from New York, as soon as the United States intervened.  The first US warship sunk by hostile action during World War II was lost while escorting an HX convoy.  She was the USS Reuben James, a Clemson-class destroyer, who fell victim of U-552 on October 31, 1941.  You'll note that the United States was not officially at war yet.

 

Posted Image

USS Reuben James

 

HX-72 consisted on 41 merchant ships (some sources indicate 43) and a very small escort, the HMS Jervis Bay, an armed merchant cruiser (AMC).  Armed with 7 6-inch guns, she would become famous later when she charged the Admiral Scheer (Deutschland-class heavy cruiser armed with 6 11-inch guns) while protecting convoy HX-84.  While she couldn't save the entire convoy, she gave most ships time to escape.

 

During the night of September 20, U-99 was surfaced and providing weather reports to other submarines in the area.  She spotted the convoy and started her attack while signaling the convoy's position to other U-boats.

 

In the morning of September 21, 2 other U-boats reached the convoy's position(U-47 and U-48) while U-99, who had launched her last torpedo left the scene. 2 merchants were sunk and 1 damaged.  The convoy thought that it would get some relief when some additional escort arrived on scene, consisting of 1 sloop, 1 destroyer, and 3 corvettes.  This didn't deter the U-boats, whose number actually grew to 7, with the arrival of U-32, U-38, U-43, U-45, and U-100.

 

U-100 waited for nightfall, and positioned herself within the convoy, starting her attack, confusing both merchants and escorts, who kept looking for her outside of the convoy perimeter.  She was credited with 3 ships sunk that day.  She would score another 4 the day after.

Posted Image

U-100

 

HX-72 lost 11 ships between the night of September 20/September 21 and September 22.  Both U-100 and U-99 were credited with 3 ships sunk, while U-48 was credited with 2, and U-47 with 1.

 

HX-72 validated the wolfpack theory.  However, not that many U-boat commanders followed the very aggressive and equally dangerous tactic displayed by U-100.  Most preferred to flank a convoy and launch their torpedo from a safe distance.

Recommended reading about HX-72

HX-72: The first convoy to die (no known electronic copy)

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2,242
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4,441 posts

Thanks guys!  I sometimes need to be creative to find something to narrate.  I limit myself to cruisers and above when it comes to describing them, or I'd make this thread a full-day job.  Even now, research on different sources and illustrations takes about 90 minutes.  That's on a day where there is not much to report...

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