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Battle of the Atlantic Part One

by sprygrame

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Contributed by 
sprygrame
People in story: 
Grahame Morris
Location of story: 
North Atlantic
Article ID: 
A5120272
Contributed on: 
16 August 2005

Battle of the Atlantic
Part One of an eyewitness account of the sinking of
SS AVOCETA, Yeoward Line, Liverpool

Torpedoed and sunk by U-boat U203 on September 25th 1941
------oooooo------

My name is Grahame Morris and in 1941, as a 19 year old, I was serving as Third Radio Officer aboard the passenger-cargo ship, SS AVOCETA, when on the 18th August we sailed, as Commodore Ship of Convoy OG72 (Outward to Gibraltar), from the Port of Liverpool bound for Gibraltar. On board, as Convoy Commodore, was Rear Admiral Sir Kenelm Creighton KBE MVO RNR. Our track lay around the north of Ireland then well out into the Atlantic before altering course to the southward. Instead of 1200 miles direct, our journey would be twice as far, and at a convoy speed of around 7 knots, would take about 14 days. This large detour was essential as more and more U-boats were operating from the Biscay ports. However the outward voyage, fortunately for us, passed without any serious incident and we eventually steamed into the Bay at Gibraltar unmolested by the enemy.

From there we sailed, this time alone and unescorted, to Lisbon in Portugal where we were to take on board some cargo and passengers. The latter were mostly European women, with their young children, who had married men of British Nationality. They had been stranded when German forces overran France and had made their way by various ways into Spain and Portugal. Both these countries refused to allow them to stay, therefore arrangements had been made to ship them to the UK.

Part of our cargo was to be bulk cork, which was to play an important part in my survival at a later date. We also carried 573 Bags of Mail and some Diplomatic Bags which were all locked away in the strongroom. When all our cargo and a total of 87 passengers were finally aboard, we returned to Gibraltar and anchored out in the Bay until such time as a convoy was formed for our return passage to the UK.

During brief shore leave in Gibraltar we heard the tragic news about our sister ship, SS AGUILA, which had been sailing in Convoy OG71. She was also Commodore ship of the convoy and was torpedoed and sunk on 18th August — the very day on which we had left Liverpool on an identical trip. There was a large loss of life among both crew and passengers, a party of 22 young WRNS on a posting to Gibraltar among them. The German U-boat U201 commanded by Kap/Lt. Adalbert Schnee being responsible. Between the 19th and 23rd August, Convoy OG71 lost 10 ships, including two escort vessels, the Norwegian destroyer BATH and the Flower Class Corvette HMS ZINNIA. The few survivors from AGUILA were to be given passage back to the UK on SS AVOCETA.

The majority of North Atlantic convoys at this time usually had only a small number of escort vessels available to them. Allied shipping losses were very high, due mainly to the effectiveness of the Wolf Pack technique devised by German Admiral Karl Doenitz, whereby U-boats would converge on a particular convoy to carry out combined mass attacks at night. Our convoy, designated HG73 (Homeward from Gibraltar), was now formed and ready to sail and left port on the afternoon of 17th September 1941.

Battle of the Atlantic
Part One of an eyewitness account of the sinking of
SS AVOCETA, Yeoward Line, Liverpool

Torpedoed and sunk by U-boat U203 on September 25th 1941
------oooooo------

My name is Grahame Morris and in 1941, as a 19 year old, I was serving as Third Radio Officer aboard the passenger-cargo ship, SS AVOCETA, when on the 18th August we sailed, as Commodore Ship of Convoy OG72 (Outward to Gibraltar), from the Port of Liverpool bound for Gibraltar. On board, as Convoy Commodore, was Rear Admiral Sir Kenelm Creighton KBE MVO RNR. Our track lay around the north of Ireland then well out into the Atlantic before altering course to the southward. Instead of 1200 miles direct, our journey would be twice as far, and at a convoy speed of around 7 knots, would take about 14 days. This large detour was essential as more and more U-boats were operating from the Biscay ports. However the outward voyage, fortunately for us, passed without any serious incident and we eventually steamed into the Bay at Gibraltar unmolested by the enemy.

From there we sailed, this time alone and unescorted, to Lisbon in Portugal where we were to take on board some cargo and passengers. The latter were mostly European women, with their young children, who had married men of British Nationality. They had been stranded when German forces overran France and had made their way by various ways into Spain and Portugal. Both these countries refused to allow them to stay, therefore arrangements had been made to ship them to the UK.

Part of our cargo was to be bulk cork, which was to play an important part in my survival at a later date. We also carried 573 Bags of Mail and some Diplomatic Bags which were all locked away in the strongroom. When all our cargo and a total of 87 passengers were finally aboard, we returned to Gibraltar and anchored out in the Bay until such time as a convoy was formed for our return passage to the UK.

During brief shore leave in Gibraltar we heard the tragic news about our sister ship, SS AGUILA, which had been sailing in Convoy OG71. She was also Commodore ship of the convoy and was torpedoed and sunk on 18th August — the very day on which we had left Liverpool on an identical trip. There was a large loss of life among both crew and passengers, a party of 22 young WRNS on a posting to Gibraltar among them. The German U-boat U201 commanded by Kap/Lt. Adalbert Schnee being responsible. Between the 19th and 23rd August, Convoy OG71 lost 10 ships, including two escort vessels, the Norwegian destroyer BATH and the Flower Class Corvette HMS ZINNIA. The few survivors from AGUILA were to be given passage back to the UK on SS AVOCETA.

The majority of North Atlantic convoys at this time usually had only a small number of escort vessels available to them. Allied shipping losses were very high, due mainly to the effectiveness of the Wolf Pack technique devised by German Admiral Karl Doenitz, whereby U-boats would converge on a particular convoy to carry out combined mass attacks at night. Our convoy, designated HG73 (Homeward from Gibraltar), was now formed and ready to sail and left port on the afternoon of 17th September 1941.

Battle of the Atlantic
Part One of an eyewitness account of the sinking of
SS AVOCETA, Yeoward Line, Liverpool

Torpedoed and sunk by U-boat U203 on September 25th 1941
------oooooo------

My name is Grahame Morris and in 1941, as a 19 year old, I was serving as Third Radio Officer aboard the passenger-cargo ship, SS AVOCETA, when on the 18th August we sailed, as Commodore Ship of Convoy OG72 (Outward to Gibraltar), from the Port of Liverpool bound for Gibraltar. On board, as Convoy Commodore, was Rear Admiral Sir Kenelm Creighton KBE MVO RNR. Our track lay around the north of Ireland then well out into the Atlantic before altering course to the southward. Instead of 1200 miles direct, our journey would be twice as far, and at a convoy speed of around 7 knots, would take about 14 days. This large detour was essential as more and more U-boats were operating from the Biscay ports. However the outward voyage, fortunately for us, passed without any serious incident and we eventually steamed into the Bay at Gibraltar unmolested by the enemy.

From there we sailed, this time alone and unescorted, to Lisbon in Portugal where we were to take on board some cargo and passengers. The latter were mostly European women, with their young children, who had married men of British Nationality. They had been stranded when German forces overran France and had made their way by various ways into Spain and Portugal. Both these countries refused to allow them to stay, therefore arrangements had been made to ship them to the UK.

Part of our cargo was to be bulk cork, which was to play an important part in my survival at a later date. We also carried 573 Bags of Mail and some Diplomatic Bags which were all locked away in the strongroom. When all our cargo and a total of 87 passengers were finally aboard, we returned to Gibraltar and anchored out in the Bay until such time as a convoy was formed for our return passage to the UK.

During brief shore leave in Gibraltar we heard the tragic news about our sister ship, SS AGUILA, which had been sailing in Convoy OG71. She was also Commodore ship of the convoy and was torpedoed and sunk on 18th August — the very day on which we had left Liverpool on an identical trip. There was a large loss of life among both crew and passengers, a party of 22 young WRNS on a posting to Gibraltar among them. The German U-boat U201 commanded by Kap/Lt. Adalbert Schnee being responsible. Between the 19th and 23rd August, Convoy OG71 lost 10 ships, including two escort vessels, the Norwegian destroyer BATH and the Flower Class Corvette HMS ZINNIA. The few survivors from AGUILA were to be given passage back to the UK on SS AVOCETA.

The majority of North Atlantic convoys at this time usually had only a small number of escort vessels available to them. Allied shipping losses were very high, due mainly to the effectiveness of the Wolf Pack technique devised by German Admiral Karl Doenitz, whereby U-boats would converge on a particular convoy to carry out combined mass attacks at night. Our convoy, designated HG73 (Homeward from Gibraltar), was now formed and ready to sail and left port on the afternoon of 17th September 1941.

Battle of the Atlantic
Part One of an eyewitness account of the sinking of
SS AVOCETA, Yeoward Line, Liverpool

Torpedoed and sunk by U-boat U203 on September 25th 1941
------oooooo------

My name is Grahame Morris and in 1941, as a 19 year old, I was serving as Third Radio Officer aboard the passenger-cargo ship, SS AVOCETA, when on the 18th August we sailed, as Commodore Ship of Convoy OG72 (Outward to Gibraltar), from the Port of Liverpool bound for Gibraltar. On board, as Convoy Commodore, was Rear Admiral Sir Kenelm Creighton KBE MVO RNR. Our track lay around the north of Ireland then well out into the Atlantic before altering course to the southward. Instead of 1200 miles direct, our journey would be twice as far, and at a convoy speed of around 7 knots, would take about 14 days. This large detour was essential as more and more U-boats were operating from the Biscay ports. However the outward voyage, fortunately for us, passed without any serious incident and we eventually steamed into the Bay at Gibraltar unmolested by the enemy.

From there we sailed, this time alone and unescorted, to Lisbon in Portugal where we were to take on board some cargo and passengers. The latter were mostly European women, with their young children, who had married men of British Nationality. They had been stranded when German forces overran France and had made their way by various ways into Spain and Portugal. Both these countries refused to allow them to stay, therefore arrangements had been made to ship them to the UK.

Part of our cargo was to be bulk cork, which was to play an important part in my survival at a later date. We also carried 573 Bags of Mail and some Diplomatic Bags which were all locked away in the strongroom. When all our cargo and a total of 87 passengers were finally aboard, we returned to Gibraltar and anchored out in the Bay until such time as a convoy was formed for our return passage to the UK.

During brief shore leave in Gibraltar we heard the tragic news about our sister ship, SS AGUILA, which had been sailing in Convoy OG71. She was also Commodore ship of the convoy and was torpedoed and sunk on 18th August — the very day on which we had left Liverpool on an identical trip. There was a large loss of life among both crew and passengers, a party of 22 young WRNS on a posting to Gibraltar among them. The German U-boat U201 commanded by Kap/Lt. Adalbert Schnee being responsible. Between the 19th and 23rd August, Convoy OG71 lost 10 ships, including two escort vessels, the Norwegian destroyer BATH and the Flower Class Corvette HMS ZINNIA. The few survivors from AGUILA were to be given passage back to the UK on SS AVOCETA.

The majority of North Atlantic convoys at this time usually had only a small number of escort vessels available to them. Allied shipping losses were very high, due mainly to the effectiveness of the Wolf Pack technique devised by German Admiral Karl Doenitz, whereby U-boats would converge on a particular convoy to carry out combined mass attacks at night. Our convoy, designated HG73 (Homeward from Gibraltar), was now formed and ready to sail and left port on the afternoon of 17th September 1941.

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