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  #1  
Old 25-02-2012, 14:55
jainso31 jainso31 is offline
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Default Attack On Convoy KMF-25A 6th November 1943

Convoy KMF-25A consisted of twenty-six transports escorted by fifteen warships, it sailed from Liverpool to Naples. The twenty-six transports carried roughly 28,000 American, British and Canadian soldiers as well as war supplies and nurses. Most, if not all of the vessels were armed with small naval and anti-aircraft guns, the American and Dutch ships had armed guards aboard who manned the weapons. The convoy was designated Task Group 60.2 and was under the command United States Navy Captain Charles C. Hartman in his flagship USS Mervine. Task Group 60.2 included the British anti-aircraft cruiser HMS Colombo, and ten destroyers, USS Mervine, Davison, Parker, Laub, Beatty, Tillman, McLanahan and HMS Haydon with two other Hunt class vessels. Also, there were four destroyer escorts, two Greek and two American, including USS Frederick C. Davis and USS Herbert C. Jones.

On October 27, 1943 convoy KMF-25A left Great Britain for Egypt and ultimately to Italy. After passing Gibraltar the ships received air support from the Royal Air Force but these aircraft squadrons could only help so much as they were constantly being rotated out with another. The rotation left the convoy without support for several minutes at a time while the Royal Air Force sent new planes. It was during one of these periods that a force of nine Luftwaffe torpedo planes and sixteen bombers intercepted the convoy.

Action
The convoy sailed in the columns of seven to nine ships each from Mers-El-Kebir to Naples. USS Laub was alone and five miles ahead of the fleet to provide a radar screen. USS Melvine led the warships in a circular course around the three columns, Beatty and Tillman were astern in the rear and the Mervine was 2,000 yards ahead. Just after sunset, at about 5:45 pm on November 6, the convoy was sailing in overcast weather, thirty-five miles away from Philippeville, off Cape Bougaroun when USS Laub detected six enemy aircraft attacking from the north. Laub's commander then radioed Captain Hartman who signaled the destroyers to make smoke and prepare for action. The thousands of soldiers and civilians were also ordered to go below deck and remain there until the threat was over. A moment later, USS Tillman picked up an enemy aircraft and opened fire at a range of 8,000 yards, too far to be accurate but the shots served as a warning to the other nearby escorts.

German forces included Heinkel 111s with F5B torpedos, Dornier 217s with Fritz-X missiles and Junkers Ju 88s armed with Henschel Hs 293 missiles, they were separated into small groups and attacked at a low altitude, around 1,000 feet above the surface of the sea. First the Americans sent out friend or foe signals to the approaching enemy but when one of the aircraft was identified as German, Hartman was informed and he ordered the escorts to open fire. As the German planes came within range both the escorts and the transports opened fire towards the sky with a massive hail of machine gun, anti-aircraft and naval gunfire. Seconds later the Germans began firing their missiles and launching torpedoes. The battle last under thirty minutes but in that time thousands of pounds of ordnance was expended. USS Beatty, under Commander William Outerson, first observed machine gun fire at 6:03 pm and picked up five incoming planes followed by a bomb explosion at 6:04. At 6:05 she opened fire on two more incoming Ju 88 torpedo planes, 16,000 yards away, which were trying to pass themselves off as friendly.

Most of the attacking aircraft seemed to be after the Tillman but she avoided being hit due to her captain who expertly steered his ship through the bombing. The first aircraft sighted by the Tillman was a Donier, it dropped a gliding bomb about 1,000 yards off the beam while under heavy fire from the destroyer's main battery. When the projectile was 600 yards from the ship, machine gun fire from the Tillman struck the bomb and it fell into a steep dive, crashing 150 yards off the port side. The bomber was then struck and blown up by Tillman's 5-inch guns while another bomb exploded 500 yards off the starboard beam. Though Tillman escaped being hit, concussion damaged the destroyers fire-control radar and aft plates.

At 6:13 pm, one of the German torpedo planes launched at torpedo from 500 yards at the Beatty, thirty seconds later, the missile struck the after engine room near frame 124. The explosion blew a relatively small hole in the Beatty, eleven men were killed in action, one died later of wounds and a third sailor, Radioman 3rd Class Samuel Poland was blown overboard along with a K-gun and a depth charge. The charge did not explode. One officer and six men were wounded and USS Beatty slowly began to sink. Immediately damage control parties were sent out to patch the torpedo hole and extinguish fires while others jettisoned the topside weights, ammunition and even the tow cable among other things. The engine room flooded which put out all electronics aboard. One of the magazines also filled with water which left the Beatty listing twelve degrees to port. The destroyer remained afloat for over four hours before her crew abandoned ship at 7:00 pm and she sank at position 3710'N, 0600'E. With her keel damaged, the destroyer broke in half and sank at about 11:00 pm, the wounded were transferred to USS Parker.

USAT Monterey, under Captain Elis R. Johanson, was an ocean liner with the convoy, she was used for transporting troops and armed with 20-milimeter anti aircraft guns. One torpedo bomber came in for an attack on the Monterey but her gunners downed the plane before a torpedo could be dropped. The aircraft began to lose altitude and as it passed over the Montery, it struck and tore off some radio equipment. Captain Johanson later received the Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal. USAT Santa Elena was another liner under William C. Renaul, she was also hit twice by German bombs and sank hours later at position 3713′N 621′E while being towed into Philippeville harbor. Santa Elena was carrying 1,848 Canadian troops and 101 nurses. Four crewmen were killed and the American armed guard on board freed several men who were trapped below.

Two armed Dutch transports were struck, the SS Marnix van St. Aldegonde, with 2,900 troops on board, was heavily damaged but suffered no deaths. Aldegonde initially survived long enough to make it to shore where she grounded and sank within Philippeville's outer harbor as her commander was trying to beach her. Thousands of soldiers, merchant sailors, and navy sailors became stranded in the water. The other damaged Dutch ship was the steamer SS Ruys, one man was killed but the ship made it to port.
Both of the sunken transports were not heavily damaged but sustained enough to cause a sinking. The Germans dropped dozens of missiles and torpedoes but most of them failed to hit further targets. At least four hits were made on the Allied fleet which destroyed six aircraft in return, an estimated ten German aviators were killed.
British and Greek forces sustained no damage or casualties, HMS Colombo steamed ahead of the center column of ships and provided accurate anti-aircraft fire, she shot down at least one enemy aircraft. USS Davison destroyed one German plane as well. By 6:20 pm, all of the torpedo planes and bombers were out of the convoy's sight and returning to base. Seventeen Americans and Dutchmen were killed and at least nine others were wounded. Captain Hartman reported that the German planes focused on the escorts so they could attack the transports unopposed but because the Allies returned fire accurately, the Germans suffered heavy losses and ultimately only six vessels of forty-one were damaged.

Aftermath

Operations to rescue adrift survivors began while bombs were still falling. American destroyers came along side the damaged transports and helped evacuate the crews while British policy dictated that no survivors were to be rescued until after the fighting had ceased. This protocol proved deadly a few weeks later off Algeria when the same German squadron attacked and sank the SS Rohna. Because the British escorts failed to rescue survivors immediately, 1,016 American soldiers drowned with 122 crewmen.
USS Beatty's crew was rescued at about 8:00 pm by the Laub and the Parker.
Meanwhile, four more United States Navy destroyers and tugs from Philippeville and Algiers were sent to help. Minesweeper USS Pioneer rescued men from the Santa Elena and USS Boyle rescued Radioman Samuel Poland the following morning. Other survivors were saved by the SS Ruyz and the Aldegonde before she grounded. While the Monterey was picking up survivors, a nurse fell from the netting she was climbing on, a Chinese cook jumped overboard and saved her.

In all 6,228 people were rescued without further loss of life. During the battle off Cape Bougaroun, one unknown sailor aboard the Beatty dropped over the side a message in a bottle. The message read "Our ship is sinking. SOS didn't do any good. Think it's the end. Maybe this message will get to the U.S. some day." In 1944 the bottle was found on the beaches of Maine, meaning it had floated hundreds of miles across both the Mediterranean and the North Atlantic before reaching the United States.

Arrive Alexandria on 11 November 1943.

jainso31
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  #2  
Old 26-02-2012, 01:22
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Default Re: Attack On Convoy Kmf-25a-6 Nov.1943

Surprised that a convoy of this size and importance had no carrier escort. Air support from distant airfields is fraught with problems, especially weather, late arrivals, leaving to refuel. etc. On this day it happened and inevitably the convoy suffered.

With their own planes within the convoy, the result would have been much better for the Allies,

Brian
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  #3  
Old 26-02-2012, 08:58
jainso31 jainso31 is offline
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Default Re: Attack On Convoy Kmf-25a-6 Nov.1943

This point also struck me Brian- as salient-the air cover from land based fighters was haphazard and a convoy containing 28000 Allied troops needed more than an AA cruiser and a dozen or so DD's and DE's did their best.
The whole scenario needs to further studied to find out more about this convoy and why it was put in harms way, without a better defence.I bet the Americans would have pretty dismayed by the outcome.
The area of the attack was off the NE coast of Algeria; and the attackers, I would assume would be land based somewhere in Italy. RAF air support would be from Gib at first and then airstrips in Allied occupied Algeria.

jainso31

Last edited by Dreadnought : 26-02-2012 at 16:20. Reason: As requested by poster
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Old 26-02-2012, 10:00
jainso31 jainso31 is offline
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Default Re: Attack On Convoy Kmf-25a-6 Nov.1943

The US commanded Convoy KMF-25A

As the number of Hitler's Mediterranean sea bases declined in late 1943 and early 1944, the number of his subs in the Mediterranean declined. Some of the "slack" was taken up by Goering's air force. KMF-25A, originating in the United Kingdom with cargo in 26 ships for Palermo and Naples transited into the eastbound Tunisian War Channel of the Mediterranean on 6 November, 1943. The escort force of eight U.S. destroyers was under U.S. command, both force and command a rarity for this routing of a UK-originating convoy. The screen was supplemented by HMS Colombo, an AA cruiser, three British Hunt class destroyers and two Greek destroyer escorts. At sunset, all escorts went to battle stations and Allied fighters returned to their bases. Just after sunset, U.S. destroyer Laub's radar picked up a number of aircraft to the north. Laub was the assigned radar picket ship out ahead of the convoy and similar dispositions found U.S. destroyers Beatty and Tillman on the starboard and port quarters, respectively. All destroyers made smoke. From about 1800 to 1830, Luftwaffe glide bomb and torpedo attacks were pressed home. The U.S. destroyer Beatty was hit by a torpedo in the after engine room about 1815. With her keel broken, Beatty sank about 2300. Once the escort screen had been punctured, two transports were torpedoed. These were the SS Santa Elena, of U.S. registry and the Dutch merchantman, the Marnix van St. Aldegonde. Edison had convoyed the latter ship many times. The U.S. screen commander directed five of his screen destroyers plus transports Monterey and Ruyz (Dutch registry) to assist in rescue operations. Four more U.S. destroyers were ordered out of Algiers and tugs were ordered out of Philippeville to assist in the rescue operations. Santa Elena sank in the outer harbor of Philippeville and the Aldegonde grounded on the way in. Over 6,000 men were rescued. Loss of life was greatly cut down by effective rescue efforts.

jainso31

Last edited by jainso31 : 26-02-2012 at 13:40.
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  #5  
Old 26-02-2012, 18:51
jainso31 jainso31 is offline
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Default Re: Attack On Convoy Kmf-25a-6 Nov.1943

KMF25A was attacked by a mixture of He 111s and Ju 88s from I & III Gruppe/Kampfgeschwader 26 (I & III/KG 26), Do 217s of III/KG 100 and He 177s of II/KG 40 using a mixture of bombs, torpedoes and Hs 293 guided missiles. They sank the US destroyer Beatty, damaged the destroyer Tillman and sank the Santa Elena and Marnix van St Aldegonde.

At the time, the bases used were:
I./KG 26 at Istres.
III./KG 26 at Montpelier.
III./KG 100 at /Istres.
II./KG 40 unknown location

jainso31

Last edited by jainso31 : 26-02-2012 at 19:15.
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  #6  
Old 26-02-2012, 22:34
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Default Re: Attack On Convoy KMF-25A 6th Nov.1943

Just for the record - the Hs 293 guided missiles were deployed by the He 177s of II./KG 40 and by the Do 217s of III./KG 100.
Michael
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Old 27-02-2012, 08:52
jainso31 jainso31 is offline
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Default Re: Attack On Convoy KMF-25A 6th Nov.1943

Thanks for that Michael. Any ideas why the Germans chose to attack just after sunset???
I append some notes on the final demise of the stricken transports and suvivors/losses

Santa Elena sank in the outer harbor of Philippeville and the Aldegonde grounded on the way in. Over 6,000 men were rescued. Loss of life was greatly cut down by effective rescue

The "Rohna" was possibly the worst allied troopship disaster of World War II, outstripping the "Leopoldville". Of the some 2,000 soldiers aboard, 1,015 perished that day along with more than 100 British officers and crew. The parents of those American troops who died aboard the "Rohna" never learned what had happened to their sons either, the U.S. War Department did not release details about the guided-bombing until 1993. The reason given for the silence was that the War Department originally did not want Nazi Germany to know how effective the guided bomb had been (fair worries). Those who survived the sinking were told not to speak about what had happened, under thread of court-martial.

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Last edited by jainso31 : 27-02-2012 at 13:02.
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Old 27-02-2012, 11:28
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Default Re: Attack On Convoy KMF-25A 6th Nov.1943

Quote:
Originally Posted by jainso31 View Post
Thanks for that Michael. Any ideas why the Germans chose to attack just after sunset???
jainso31
I'm sure that the primary mission goal was to inflict as much damage to the convoy as possible, however a secondary aim was surely to trial the effectiveness of the new weapon (the Henschel Hs 293) in the anti-shipping role.
I can only guess that the guided missile guidance was believed to be easiest (and perhaps safest for the bombing aircraft) when it was just dark enough for the indicator lights on the rear of the missile to be seen, and still light enough for the target ship to be picked out clearly.
The biggest drawback for the bomber was that it had to fly straight and level after the missile was released, until it hit home. This would have made it very vulnerable to enemy fighter aircraft, had any actually been on patrol over the target area - so maybe they were just taking advantage of an identified gap in fighter protection over the convoy?
Michael
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Old 27-02-2012, 12:27
jainso31 jainso31 is offline
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Default Re: Attack On Convoy KMF-25A 6th Nov.1943

Have read your reply carefully,for which my thanks; and I am sure that all the reasons you gave are quite valid-particularly the lighting on the missile.
However I think that this convoy was monitored by the Germans just before and after Gibraltar AND it was noted (IMO) that the air cover was as a rule withdrawn at sunset-as you have noted
British fighter airfields were at several places along the Algerian coast ie.Maison Blanche,Setif,Souk-el-Khemis , Tahir and Constantine -all had Spitfires and /or Hurricanes.The convoy was sailing approximately 15 miles from the coast- a few minutes flying time.
The German aircraft were flying from airfields in Southern France (and not Italy as I had supposed) ie. Istres and Montpelier-
a good 400-500 miles away-so that their plan of attack had to be synchronised with distance,flying speed and keeping formation; to arrive at dusk.A flight time of about 2 hours,flying at an economical cruising speed.of say 200kts
As you say -they had a new weapon to try out and there was no room for error.

The Henschel Hs 293 was one of Hitler’s new secret weapons and was designed to be used against un-armoured ships and was basically a standard 500kg bomb which was fitted with wings and a rocket motor unit bolted on underneath. It was radio controlled and flown into the target by an operator in the dropping aircraft using a joystick control. The flying bomb was fitted out with six coloured flares to help the operator see the missile and to fly it into the ships engine room. The US navy immediately developed radio jamming equipment to counter the new threat but this equipment had not yet been fitted to the next convoy sent through the Straits.

jainso31

Last edited by jainso31 : 27-02-2012 at 13:03.
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Old 28-02-2012, 09:37
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Default Re: Attack On Convoy KMF-25A 6th Nov.1943

The US navy immediately developed radio jamming equipment to counter the new threat but this equipment had not yet been fitted to the next convoy sent through the Straits.
jainso31[/quote]

As you say, earlier versions of the Hs 293 were equipped with radio-control, however the swift development of Allied electronic countermeasures forced the weapon developers to drop this system in favour of wire guided variants. There was even a TV controlled system planned, however this concept was never fully developed before the war came to a close.
Michael
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Old 28-02-2012, 10:02
jainso31 jainso31 is offline
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Default Re: Attack On Convoy KMF-25A 6th Nov.1943

Given that this was the case and really I have no reason to doubt what you have said -this shouts out that "This was no Secret weapon"and the Americans
knew all along about this weapon and it's likely users,where they were likely to come from but not when-ULTRA wins again.
However it was so secret the potential victims could not be informed.
NB. I am surprised that no attempt was made to launch a heavy bomber raid/raids on the German airbases in southern France
jainso31

Last edited by jainso31 : 28-02-2012 at 13:35.
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Old 28-02-2012, 10:12
jainso31 jainso31 is offline
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Default Re: Attack On Convoy KMF-25A 6th Nov.1943

Further to the above re.the Hs 293

The Allies also went to considerable effort to develop devices which jammed the low-VHF band (48.2 MHz to 49.9 MHz) radio link between the Kehl transmitter aboard the launching aircraft and the Strassburg receiver embedded in the missile. Early jamming efforts by the United States Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) produced the XCJ jamming transmitter installed aboard the destroyer escorts USS Herbert C. Jones and Frederick C. Davis in late September 1943. The XCJ was ineffective because the frequencies selected for jamming were incorrect. This was updated in time for Operation Shingle at Anzio (Italy) with the XCJ-1 system, installed aboard the two destroyer escorts mentioned above as well as the destroyers USS Woolsey, Madison, Hilary P. Jones and Lansdale. These six ships rotated service at Anzio, with three deployed at any time. This system met with some success, though because of its manual interface, it was cumbersome to use and easily overwhelmed if large numbers of missiles were engaged. On balance, the probability that a Hs 293 launched (and seen as responding to operator guidance) would actually strike a target (or achieve a damage-inflicting near miss) was about the same at Anzio as it was during Operation Avalanche at Salerno, Italy.
Meanwhile, as attacks were taking place at Anzio, the United Kingdom began to deploy its Type 650 transmitter which employed a different approach. This system jammed the Strassburg receiver's intermediate frequency of 3 MHz, and appears to have been quite successful, especially as the operator did not have to attempt to find which of the 18 Kehl/Strassburg command frequencies were in use and then manually tune the jamming transmitter to one of those frequences. This system automatically defeated the receiver regardless of which radio frequency had been selected for an individual Luftwaffe missile.
Following several intelligence coups, including a capture of an intact Hs 293 at Anzio and recovery of important components from a crashed Heinkel He 177 on Corsica, the Allies were able to develop far more effective countermeasures, all in time for the Invasion of Normandy (starting with Operation Neptune, D-Day) and Operation Dragoon in Southern France. This included an updated XCJ-2 system from the Naval Research Laboratory (produced as the TX), the modified airborne AN/ARQ-8 Dinamate system from Harvard's Radio Research Laboratory, NRL's improved XCJ-3 model (produced as the CXGE), the British Type 651 and the Canadian Naval Jammer. Perhaps most impressive of all was AIL's Type MAS jammer which employed sophisticated signals to defeat the Kehl transmission and to take over command of the Hs 293, steering it into the sea via a sequence of right-turn commands. Even more sophisticated jammers from NRL, designated XCK (to be produced as TY and designated TEA when combined with the upgraded XCJ-4) and XCL, were under development but were never deployed as the threat had evaporated before they could be put into service. In contrast to the experience at Anzio, the jammers seemed to have had a major impact on operations after April 1944, with significant degradation observed in the probability that a Hs 293 launched at a target (and responding to operator guidance) would achieve a hit or damage-causing near miss.

jainso31
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Old 28-02-2012, 13:47
jainso31 jainso31 is offline
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Default Re: Attack On Convoy KMF-25A 6th Nov.1943

As a postscript to some of the statements made about inadequate cover for troop convoys to Italy;after KMF25-A and KMF26; these convoys were made into Winston Specials ie,WS Convoys which did have better air cover,

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Old 08-08-2013, 10:39
jainso31 jainso31 is offline
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Default Re: Attack On Convoy KMF-25A 6th Nov.1943

Extracted from #11

NB. I am surprised that no attempt was made to launch a heavy bomber raid/raids on the German airbases in southern France

As RAF Bomber Command were capable of flying to Genoa and Leghorn in Italy-why not Southern France.?? Anybody got a comment on this shortcoming.

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Old 11-10-2013, 14:09
jainso31 jainso31 is offline
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Default Re: Attack On Convoy KMF-25A 6th November 1943

The only meaningful air assaults on German airfields in Southern France was during Operation Dragoon in August 1944 but these were specifically to protect the landing areas and convoys to and from them. US 12th Tactical Airforce and the DAF were involved.

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Old 11-10-2013, 18:47
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Default Re: Attack On Convoy KMF-25A 6th November 1943

Jim: The absence of heavy bomber raids over the south of France was likely a deliberate attempt of the allies not to wreck the entire country. There were better industrial targets in Germany and the Italian campaign was tough.

Brian
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Old 12-10-2013, 07:20
jainso31 jainso31 is offline
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Default Re: Attack On Convoy KMF-25A 6th November 1943

Hi Brian-I did not mean that RAF Bomber Command should have shifted targets to airfields in Southern France-rather the two air forces which supported Operation Dragoon ie 12th US Tactical AF and the DAF.

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Old 16-10-2013, 01:06
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Default Re: Attack On Convoy KMF-25A 6th November 1943

Jim: The fog of war supplemented by the fog of language!
Brian
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Old 30-10-2017, 15:54
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Default Re: Attack On Convoy KMF-25A 6th November 1943

Hi, I am new to this site and from what I have seen so far it is an excellent and well written source with thoughtful comments - too often missing in discussion groups. My mother was a nurse being transported on the Santa Elena and I am researching her war history. I'm wondering if anyone can answer the following questions. Did the entire convoy form up at Liverpool or did some ships join at sea from other British ports? I assume the convoy left Liverpool at night which was the normal practice? Also I am curious about blackout procedures in a convoy with all those ships. Can anyone share their thoughts on that? Finally, does anyone know what type of plane it was that dropped the bomb on the Santa Elena? Thanks very much for any help you can provide.
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Old 30-10-2017, 19:36
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Default Re: Attack On Convoy KMF-25A 6th November 1943

From elswhere on the web, it appears that KMF25A was attacked by a mixture of Heinkel He111s and Junkers Ju88s. 9 bombers and 16 torpedo planes attacked the convoy near Cape Bougaroun.

Jim
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Old 23-11-2017, 04:49
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Default Re: Attack On Convoy KMF-25A 6th November 1943

Hey Robbennie, my father was on that ship as well.
Contact me if you would like further info.
Thanks,
Howard
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