North Africa convoy/ship numbers

Discussion in 'General' started by SteveDee, Oct 5, 2019.

  1. SteveDee

    SteveDee Well-Known Member

    So I know that the bulk of the 59th HAA sailed to North Africa on convoy KMF-05, but the regimental War Diaries seem to use a different numbering system;

    "Ship no P55 in convoy WS25R {AI?} sailed from Liverpool"

    I thought the WS series sailed to S.Africa. Is there a cross-reference list that I have missed? Or can someone explain my confusion?

    I can also see that the SS Benalbanach (which was sunk off the African coast) was referred to as J43 in the War Diaries.

    BTW, I was amused by the Movement Order: ADM 4 (b) states "Tea will NOT be provided at halts"
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  2. Oldman

    Oldman Very Senior Member

    You are correct with the sailing to South Africa WS25 split near Gibralter with the KMF portion going to the Med, this was done because of the shortage of escorts
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  3. SteveDee

    SteveDee Well-Known Member

    Thank you very much Oldman, I thought there must be a simple explanation.

    Any idea if there is a ref list of ship names to ship IDs? I'd like to know which ship in KMF05 was designated P55.
  4. Ewen Scott

    Ewen Scott Well-Known Member

    This might help
    Arnold Hague Convoy Database

    Also if you can track a copy down "The Winston Specials, Troopships via the Cape 1940-43" by Archie Munro
  5. SteveDee

    SteveDee Well-Known Member

    Many thanks Ewan.

    I've explored the Hague database a few times, but it does not seem to include ship numbers. I wonder if these numbers were just an 'army coding system' to get the right people on the right boat.

    I'll check the library for "The Winston Specials". I know its on Amazon, but not keen to spend £25 just to get a glimpse of a list. I guess its not really so important, because I know my dad traveled later with 164 Battery on the Boissevain as part of KMF-06.
  6. timuk

    timuk Well-Known Member

    Form A1 is the Cruising Order of the convoy. Example:
    Cruising Order - Convoy OS.33
    P55 will be the ship's pennant number in the convoy but so far I am unable to identify this number in the Convoys in #1.

    Out of interest Benalbanach was sunk whilst part of Convoy KMS 6G. Pennant number was 42.
    "Benalbanach, on a voyage from Greenock for North Africa with 800 tons of ammunition, 300 tons of military stores, 136 vehicles, and 68 tons of petrol, was attacked by aircraft on Jan. 7-1943, blew up and sank in 1 1/2-2 minutes. She had a crew of 57 and 17 gunners as well as 389 Army personnel - 44 crew, 13 gunners and 340 Army personnel were lost. ("Lloyd's War Losses", Vol I)."
    Form A1 Convoy Cruising Order for KMS 6:
    Convoy KMS 6 -

  7. SteveDee

    SteveDee Well-Known Member

    Thanks Tim.

    So the KMS 6 list from 'Warsailors' gives "42" as the number for Benalbanach, but the War Diary says "J43"...I wonder which is correct? Also the letter "J" does not appear as an option for ships position ...the Fog or War?

    All equipment for 164 Battery was lost, and the only survivor from this battery was Gunner Beaumont. If fact, out of 17 gunners only 4 survived, but I don't know which Regt & Battery they represented, although there must have been more than one from 164.

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  8. Hugh MacLean

    Hugh MacLean Senior Member

    It is unlikely you will find the ship names allocated to those codes.
  9. timuk

    timuk Well-Known Member

    Pennant Numbers are listed on the convoyweb site. They're in the column headed Pdt. Boissevain in Convoy KMF.6 was 52 ie: second ship in the fifth column. Arnold Hague convoy database - KMF convoys

  10. Hugh MacLean

    Hugh MacLean Senior Member

    There is no association though between ship's pennant no's and the designations such as J45.
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  11. SteveDee

    SteveDee Well-Known Member

    Sorry Tim, I didn't know I was looking for the Pennant numbers when I wrote that.

    Did they try to sail in a grid formation, or have I got that wrong too? (I know nothing about ships & convoys).
  12. timuk

    timuk Well-Known Member

    That's right and the pennant number indicated their position in the convoy.
    Hugh - who allocated these codes. Admiralty ? Did ships keep the same code or did it change?

  13. Hugh MacLean

    Hugh MacLean Senior Member

    My understanding is the codes would change so designation J45 would be kept only for the duration of convoy. Again, my understanding would be Admiralty. I have been trying to source information on those codes for years and I have only found the actual ships names associated with designations on very few occasions mainly from signals held within ADM files at Kew.
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  14. Sarah Reay

    Sarah Reay Member

    I've just started doing research into my Grandfathers war time service, he served with 265 battery 59th HAA, and from what I've found so far it seems 265 Bty and 164 Bty seemed to go to same places at same times, but then again I have only started. I had been trying to find out about Ship No P55 so all the above this has been really helpful
  15. SteveDee

    SteveDee Well-Known Member

    Hi Sarah, what was your grandads name? ...and did he ever attend any of the post-war reunions in Whipps Cross?

    Each Battery in the 59th HAA was divided into two Troops. So for 164: A & B Troop, 167: C & D Troop, and 265: E & F Troop.

    Each Troop generally occupied a different site, which could be close by or some distance away from the others. Troops were sometimes temporarily transferred to other Regiments.

    H.R.Glover (of 265 Bty) notes that in Italy (1943) "...we soon established our gun site on a flat open area not far from Capadichino Airfield.
    "E" & "F" Troops together on one site for the first time."

    Your may find some of my blog of interest: Sergeant ACK-ACK: Alec Stanley Davis & World War 2
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2020
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  16. Sarah Reay

    Sarah Reay Member

    Hiya Steve, my Grandads name was Albert G Littleton, I'm not sure at this stage whether he was E or F Troop, which doesn't help much lol. I've been reading your blog and found it really interesting. I've only just got the forms to apply to get his service records but given that I'm stuck in Australia at the moment my ability to go to certain places and research is limited.
  17. SteveDee

    SteveDee Well-Known Member

    Unfortunately, I doubt that his service record will tell you which Troop he was in. (I only know my dad's Troop because he wrote it on a make-shift ID card for a reunion). But in some respects, its probably not that important.

    For me, the first hand accounts by others that had been part of the same Regiment, had traveled the same route, and must have had very similar experiences, is of more interest. HAA gunners sometimes shot down their own planes, often lost fellow soldiers, and frequently witnessed all sorts of dreadful things. But they kept going, kept doing what they had been trained to do, thank goodness!

    Was Albert an officer or 'other ranks'? If you post his service number, some clever person may be able to provide a bit more info while you are waiting for his service records.

    Good luck with your research Sarah.
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  18. Sarah Reay

    Sarah Reay Member

    I’ll pop on tomorrow and post his service number, I know he was a Bombadier and was mentioned in dispatches but I’ll have to go through all my notes and see what else I have. Thank you so much for your help, it’s great being able to talk to other people. I think most of his stuff got thrown out by family members when my Nan passed as he had passed about 15 years before her. Hopefully we can talk again soon.

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