Irish Sea, the formation of convoy WS.12z

Convoy WS.8a, picture taken from Abbekerk on her previous convoy by F.J.C Schimmel.

11 Ocean liners, packed with soldiers, depart from different ports along the east coast of England and rendez vous in the Irish Sea. Four heavy loaded freighters are also on their way, including Abbekerk.

A few days later we sailed to form a convoy consisting of 11 large and medium-sized passenger ships, crammed with people in military uniform and 4 freighters. There also were 5 destroyers busy carrying out some commands of the Commodore. All in all a reassuring ambiance. As is custom the freighters were positioned on the outside of the convoy which is obviously very nice for the passenger ships. Yet often, in the middle of the night, a U-boat lowered itself in front of a convoy to surface in the middle and barrage the rich spoils from there.
We hoped for that to happen… Me, me, me and bugger the rest. Of course that was not our official motto and nobody would say this aloud, but we may have thought so. Nobody wants to be a dead hero. After all I was only 22 years old and not ready to kick the bucket yet.
Ass. engineer Adriaan Kik


Atlantic convoy routes in 1941 and a sobering picture of the losses to merchant shipping (source: wikipedia)

The twenty ships formed military convoy WS. 12z. Over 25.000 troops, all their equipment, ammunition and food destined for the war in North Africa and the Middle East. Also the freighters transported a cargo destined for Russia, as war support deriving from the land-easy-policy. Further along the line this cargo will be transported by rail, through Persia (Iraq) to Russia.

( I will be revisiting this later in the year because the locomotives transported by Abbekerk in her front holds and on deck are meant to be deployed on that railroad.)

These WS convoys are completely different from the known supply convoys that sail between England and the United States. Most of the time the WS convoys consisted of large modern passenger ships rebuild to carry troops, fast large freighters often with a heavy escort of large navy ships. These convoys are meant to realize large troop displacements fast. During the war these convoys will ship well over 2 million troops with all their equipments and materials. Here you can find more background to these convoys and more info on on WS. 12z.

ws12z_2The ships rendez vous southwest of Ireland. The convoy consists of five columns and 4 rows of ships. Abbekerk is assigned number 53, meaning she sails in the fifth column, third row.

The freighters are positioned at the more vulnerable outer positions while the troopships are positioned on the inside. Speed, as usual, depends on the slowest ship and turns out to be only 13/14 knots.

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