Convoy OB.293

Convoy OB 293
Part of World War II
Date 2 March 1941-8 March 1941
Location Western Approaches
Result Allied victory
Belligerents
Germany United Kingdom
Commanders and leaders
Admiral Karl Dönitz convoy:
escort:LtCdr JM Rowlands
Strength
4 U-boats 37 ships
4 escorts
Casualties and losses
2 U-boats sunk
1 damaged
3 ships sunk
2 damaged

OB 293 was a North Atlantic convoy which ran during the battle of the Atlantic in World War II. It was notable for seeing the loss to the Kriegsmarine (KM) of U-47, with her commander KL Günther Prien, the person responsible for the sinking of HMS Royal Oak two years previously.

Prelude

OB 293 was a west-bound convoy of 37 ships, either in ballast or carrying trade goods, and sailed from Liverpool on 2 March 1941 bound for ports in North America.

It was escorted by an escort group of two destroyers, HMS Wolverine and HMS Verity, and two corvettes, HMS Arbutus and HMS Camellia. They were led by LtCdr Rowlands of Wolverine, which would stay with them till they left the Western Approaches. (At this stage of the campaign escort groups were too scarce to provide “end-to-end” cover).

On 6 March 1941 the convoy was sighted by U-47 commanded by Prien. After sending a sighting report he set to shadowing the convoy, being joined throughout the day by three other boats. They were U-99 (Kretschmer), U-70 (Matz) and U-A (Eckerman).

Action

On the night of the 6/7 March the pack launched its attack.

In the early hours of 7 March U-99 slipped into the convoy from ahead, to attack on the surface; she torpedoed the tanker Athelbeach, sinking her, and the whale factory ship Terje Viken, which was damaged. U-70 hit a freighter Dunaff Head, which sank, and a Dutch tanker, Mijdrecht. She was only damaged, however, rounding on U-70 and attempting to ram; U-70 was forced to crash-dive to escape. U-A hit a freighter but did not sink her.

The response of the escorts was swift and effective. The U-boats were subjected to a fierce bombardment as the warships chased down contacts; over 100 depth-charges were expended over a 5 hour period. U-A was damaged but was able to escape; U-99 only escaped by diving deep and waiting out the attack. U-70 was damaged in the onslaught and forced to the surface, where she was fired on and sunk by the corvettes Camellia and Arbutus.

U-47 avoided damage and was able to stay in contact with the convoy, sending further reports and requesting re-inforcements. He had also been able to torpedo Terje Viken, which was straggling after being damaged, though she still remained afloat. The escorts attempted to bring her to port, but she finally sank on the 14th; her loss was credited to both U-99 and U-47.

Meanwhile, on the night of 7th/8th, at about 1am on the 8th, Wolverine sighted a U-boat on the surface which she identified as U-47. She and Verity attacked, and after 4 hours, which had shown evidence of damage, the U-boat was driven to the surface within yards of Wolverine, before diving again. The destroyer sent down a pattern of depth-charges and was rewarded with an underwater explosion, marked by an orange glow, and flames that broke the surface.

Aftermath

Wolverine was credited with destroying U-47, and this featured in the official record until the late 1990s. However, after reviewing the available records modern historians regard this attack as being directed against U-A, which was badly damaged, but survived to reach port.

No conclusion can be reached about the fate of U-47, and it is thought likely to be the result of a diving accident.

The success of the defence of OB 293, with the loss of the U-boat ace Prien, coupled with the successful defence of Convoy HX-112, and the loss of two more aces, Kretschmer and Schepke, one week later, marks a minor turning point in the Atlantic campaign.

Ships in the convoy[1]

Name Flag Tonnage (GRT) Notes
HMS Arbutus (K86)  Royal Navy Escort 02 Mar - 07 Mar
Athelbeach (1931)  United Kingdom 6,568 7 dead. 37 survivors. Sunk by U-99[2]
Basil (1928)  United Kingdom 4,913
Bayano (1917)  United Kingdom 6,815 Vice-Admiral Sir F M Austin KBE CB (Commodore)
HMS Beverley  Royal Navy Escort 04 Mar - 08 Mar
HMS Camellia (K31)  Royal Navy Escort 02 Mar - 07 Mar
Capsa (1931)  United Kingdom 8,229
Cardium (1931)  United Kingdom 8,236
HMS Chelsea  Royal Navy Escort 02 Mar - 07 Mar
City of Baroda (1918)  United Kingdom 7,129
Delilian (1923)  United Kingdom 6,423 Damaged by U-70[3] & towed to Clyde
Dunaff Head (1918)  United Kingdom 5,258 5 dead & 39 survivors. Sunk by U-A[4]
Eastgate (1940)  United Kingdom 5,032
Embassage (1935)  United Kingdom 4,954
Empire Attendant (1921)  United Kingdom 7,524
Empire Wildebeeste (1918)  United Kingdom 5,631
Jade (1938)  United Kingdom 930
Kelbergen (1914)  Netherlands 4,823
Korsholm (1925)  Sweden 2,647
Leerdam (1921)  Netherlands 8,815
Leiesten (1930)  Norway 6,118
Loreto (1913)  United Kingdom 6,682
Mercier (1915)  Belgium 7,886
Michael J Goulandris (1921)  Greece 6,669
Mijdrecht (1931)  Netherlands 7,493 Damaged then later rammed by U-70[5]
Miralda (1936)  United Kingdom 8,013
New Brunswick (1919)  United Kingdom 6,529
New Westminster City (1929)  United Kingdom 4,747
Peru (1916)  United Kingdom 6,569
Port Caroline (1919)  United Kingdom 8,263
Puck (1935)  Poland 1,065
Sacramento Valley (1924)  United Kingdom 4,573
Terje Viken (1936)  United Kingdom 20,638 Sunk by U-99[6]
Tiradentes (1922)  Norway 4,960
Tregarthen (1936)  United Kingdom 5,201
Ulysses (1918)  Netherlands 2,666
HMS Verity (D63)  Royal Navy Escort 02 Mar - 07 Mar
Vernon City (1929)  United Kingdom 4,748
Viking Star (1920)  United Kingdom 6,445
Waroonga (1914)  United Kingdom 9,365
White Crest (1928)  United Kingdom 4,365
Woensdrecht (1926)  Netherlands 4,668
HMS Wolverine (D78)  Royal Navy Escort 02 Mar - 07 Mar
Yselhaven (1921)  Netherlands 4,802

References

  • Stephen Roskill : The War at Sea 1939-1945 Vol I (1954). ISBN (none)
  • Dan van der Vat : The Atlantic Campaign (1988). ISBN 0-340-37751-8
  • Arnold Hague : The Allied Convoy System 1939-1945 (2000). SBN (Canada) 1 55125 033 0 . ISBN (UK) 1 86176 147 3
  • Paul Kemp : U-Boats Destroyed (1997). ISBN 1-85409-515-3
  • Axel Neistle : German U-Boat Losses during World War II (1998). ISBN 1-85367-352-8
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