Convoy routes to Mid and Far East

Discussion in 'General' started by Alan Allport, Aug 10, 2012.

  1. Alan Allport

    Alan Allport Senior Member

    Hi,

    Having looked at the accounts of several servicemen who served in the Mid and Far East theaters, it seems as though the standard convoy route for troopships, at least until the reopening of the Western Mediterranean towards the end of the war, was this:

    UK (usually Liverpool it seems) - Freetown - Cape Town - Durban - Aden; and then either on to Bombay or Colombo or else up the Red Sea to Port Tewfik.

    Is that about right? I realize there are going to be exceptions to this, but I'm interested in figuring out what the typical troopship route would have been.

    Thanks,

    Alan
     
  2. red ling

    red ling Member

    Hello Alan,
    I know my father left for Egypt 4 Aug 1940(service record) from Liverpool as this is where he met my mother. We also have photos of Cape Town where he disembarked and met a family who became life long friends. They met because the jeep broke down outside their home and as he was unable to send messages back to England they wrote to my grandparents to say that they had seen him. He disembarked Egypt 18 Sept 1940(service record)
     
  3. londoner

    londoner Member

    Alan, the three RAF personel I have followed went to India via Liverpool, Free Town, Durban where they changed ships, then Mombasa, Bombay, Karachi.
    In my father’s case the whole journey was 65 days at sea.

    In January of 1942 RAF and Army personnel mutinied in Durban rather than travel on the ships which were dirty, louse ridden and provided poor food. They were prosecuted and some sentenced to four years hard labour; due to pressure from UK and South African MPs together with some senior officers they were pardoned after six months. Conditions immediately improved, though.

    The ship my father went on from Durban via Mombasa to India was the SS Khedive Ismail which was later torpedoed by a Jap submarine enroute from Mombasa to Colombo in June 1944 with the loss of 1,297 lives; I have seen this reported as the largest single loss of life in WW2 as a result of a submarine. No doubt someone will correct this if wrong.

    The convoy my father was in was, apparently, unescorted from Liverpool to Durban despite it being slow but was escorted by the battleship HMS Revenge and the light cruiser HMS Dauntless for the Durban / Mombasa / Bombay legs.

    I was surprised to find out that even in wartime “crossing the line” was celebrated in full style on the ship carrying my father – the Empress of Russia. David
     
  4. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

  5. Read "The Winston Specials Troopships via the Cape 1940- 1943 by Archie Munro ISBN 1-904459-20-X available from Maritime Books - Specialist Publishers of Royal Navy books and Warship World Magazine or try your local Library. This book is considered the definitive work on the subject.
    To try and answer your question. Ships in troop convoys usually embarked in most of the major west coast UK ports and rendezvoused in the Atlantic. Although the ports of call were roughly as you have lisited convoy routes could vary mainly due to enemy dispositions.

    Roger
     
    dbf likes this.
  6. Alan Allport

    Alan Allport Senior Member

    Thanks everyone for the info and suggestions - best, Alan
     
  7. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    Alan

    Not me .............

    Embarked Draft REAYK (En route to North Africa 10th April 1943
    S.S Franconia
    Disembarked (Algiers) 21th April 1943

    Short and sweet via Liverpool & Greenock

    Ron
     
  8. PeteT

    PeteT Senior Member

    Alan

    I found all the information that I needed re winston specials on http://www.naval-history.net/xAH-WSConvoys01.htm

    It has all the dates, locations and ships for outgoing convoys and explains the different routes taken and why; sadly I couldn't find an equivalent for incoming convoys, so that takes a bit more research.

    Regards

    Pete
     
    Alan Allport likes this.
  9. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    PeteT

    Delighted with your link but couldn't find (it might just be me) my "own" ship.

    According to my records below I embarked on 10/4/43 and disembarked on 23/4/43. The ship was the Franconia.

    HOLD YOUR HORSES !!!!!!

    Have just been back to your linked site and see that the Franconia was part of a convoy that sailed from the Clyde on the 14th.
    This must mean that although we embarked on the 10th we didn't sail as a convoy until the 14th.

    Now it makes sense :)

    Ron
     

    Attached Files:

  10. PeteT

    PeteT Senior Member

    I was just going to get back to you to say WS29.

    As you say, the dates on the records are normally assembly dates and not necessarily sailing dates.

    I can't get your 23rd date tied in though; closest is Freetown on 28th (although it does say the convoy divided on 20th and the Franconia is not mentioned after this point so I guess it sailed to your disembarkation port)

    Regards

    Pete
     
  11. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    Pete

    I found my friend Lew (Larry) Fox's diary for this period:


    10 th April
    LEW FOX: After travelling all night we finally arrived at Liverpool. We finally discovered it was the S.S.Frankonia with about 4100 men aboard. We arrived on board about 10 am, it was quite a nice ship, we were put in E6 deck,15 A Mess. Hammocks were distributed too and they were very comfortable.

    13th April
    LEW FOX: Ship stopped at a port in Scotland.

    21st. April
    LEW FOX: Passing the Straits of Gibraltar

    23rd April.
    LEW FOX: Awake to find we are going to Algiers. We finally arrived at 11 and in full marching order and our blanket we marched for about half a mile and then a Chara picked us up and took us to Cap Matifou. We were put in tents and told we were going in 36 hours but that proved wrong. Our money was changed into French Francs, 200 to the £.

    Ron
     
  12. PeteT

    PeteT Senior Member

    I have found the arrival of Franconia in Algiers on 23rd. It was part of convoy KMF.13 which departed with WS29 (see http://www.convoyweb.org.uk/ws/index.html click on WS29 / KMF.13 and then click find convoy)

    Regards

    Pete
     
  13. londoner

    londoner Member

    PeteT thank you for the link in post 8; my particular interest is in WS17 and here I found different details about escorts to those I had found on other websites so now am going to have to revisit some of my earlier research.

    The following perhaps sets a scene or mood for WS17

    This is an account by LAC Harold Davies (79 Squadron RAF) who sailed on the Empress of Russia in WS17.

    “We sailed from Liverpool on an old 1914-18 war period vessel, namely the SS ’Empress of Russia’, in a very large convoy on March 19th 1942. The only clue we had to our destination was the tropical kit that was issued. On the dockside were armed troops with fixed bayonets, whether they were to keep us on the ship or keep others off was always a bone of contention.
    Leading the convoy was the old plodding SS’Louis Pasteur’ from which the convoy seemed to take its slow pace. Our arrival in Durban South Africa was greeted with songs by the ‘Lady in White’, as she became known by all British troops. The songs were sung from the dockside as each troopship arrived or departed the harbour. We spent three short pleasant weeks in Durban before boarding another ship, this time the ‘Ile de France’ set sail to India and all it held for us, the dreaded jungles, terrific heat, the smells and the dreadful illnesses and diseases of that continent.”
     
  14. Ron
    Movements of FRACONIA 1943 attached. Looks like you and your mate sailed from Liverpool on the 12th April, arrived Clyde 13th, and sailed 16th.

    Roger
     

    Attached Files:

  15. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    Thanks chaps !

    If I wasn't so lazy, I would find the thread where someone implied that he didn't place any trust in anything witten by a veteran and say "what about this mate !" :)

    Ron
     
  16. Alan Allport

    Alan Allport Senior Member

  17. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

    The ship my father went on from Durban via Mombasa to India was the SS Khedive Ismail which was later torpedoed by a Jap submarine enroute from Mombasa to Colombo in June 1944 with the loss of 1,297 lives; I have seen this reported as the largest single loss of life in WW2 as a result of a submarine. No doubt someone will correct this if wrong.

    Happy to. That dubious honor would have been earned by Wilhelm Gustloff.

    All the best

    Andreas
     
  18. red ling

    red ling Member

    Hi,
    I have just been studying convoy WS2 and find it rather confusing with the escort changes and being divided into "fast" and "slow" especially as they all arrive in Cape Town the same day! They all leave Cape Town the same day and again have a "fast" and "slow" convoy that leave Perim 12.9 and 14.9 respectively without an arrival date for disembarkation in Egypt. Also the Empress of Canada at this time is named the Duchess of Richmond and I cannot find any references to "Suffolk" "Memnon" and "Lanarkshire"
     
  19. lionboxer

    lionboxer Member

    I'm trying find which convoy my father sailed in without much success. I have his "certificate" for crossing the line on 23rd October 1942. His arrival in India is documented 3rd November 1942. Any idea's?
    Lionboxer
     
  20. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    I'm trying find which convoy my father sailed in without much success. I have his "certificate" for crossing the line on 23rd October 1942. His arrival in India is documented 3rd November 1942. Any idea's?
    Lionboxer

    Hi Lionboxer,

    I was looking at convoy WS23 today on another research pathway and it was crossing the line very close to 23rd October 1942.
    However, it was still in Durban/Capetown in early November and did not reach Bombay until late that month.

    WS Convoys
     

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