Crest of the V&W Destroyer AssociationCrest of the V&W Destroyer AssociationHMS VIMIERA

The disaster on
Haisborough Sands
6 August 1941

Map of Norfolk Coast showing Haisboropugh Sands (Wikipedia)
Early on the morning of 6th August 1941 the Vimiera was the rear escort for southbound convoy FS (5)59 from Rosyth. The leading escort and Senior Officer was HMS Wolsey and the remainder of the force comprised HMS Holderness (Hunt Class destroyer), HMS Puffin (Kingfisher Class sloop), and the trawlers Agate, Basset and Sword Dance. The weather was appalling, and had affected the formation of the convoy which was now strung out over six miles.

The convoy was due to alter course to starboard on reaching swept channel buoy 8B, abeam the Haisbro Lightship, but the Convoy Commodore onboard the Dutch merchant ship Kentar selected the wrong course. The course should have been 140 degrees true, but the ship steered 120 degrees true. At the Board of Inquiry the Commodore maintained he had steered 160 degrees true to allow for leeway but this was not accepted by the Board. It is possible that there was a misunderstanding between the Commodore and the Dutch helmsman of the magnetic course to be steered.

SS Kentar and the Wolsey sighted breakers in time to avoid going ashore by altering course but were not followed by the other ships, as the second ship had dropped so far astern as to be out of sight, and seven ships of the convoy went ashore on South Haisbro by blindly following the Commodore on the wrong course. HMT Agate, on the starboard flank of the convoy crossed to the port side to try to restore order but went aground herself. Fortunately the error in the course was detected by several ships who avoided the Sands in consequence. See map on left from Wikipedia.

Vimiera was the first on the scene and in spite of the sea conditions was able to launch her whaler with a volunteer crew, which rescued most of the seamen of the Estonian ship Taara. Other merchant seamen were rescued from the water by members of the ships company jumping into the water tethered by heaving lines. Altogether Vimiera saved 27. She was joined by three lifeboats, including Cromer Number One commanded by the celebrated Coxswain Henry Blogg, which transferred a further 30 survivors to Vimiera. Other lifeboats transferred survivors to the sloop HMS Puffin. Altogether 146 merchant seamen were rescued.

HMS Vimiera escorting an East Coasdt Convoy in rough seas
HMS Vimiera escorting an East Coast convoy in rough sea
Courtesy of Paul Adams

The Coxswain of the Whaler was awarded the MBE, and the crew each received the British Empire Medal. The Captain of the Vimiera was Mentioned in Despatches and confirmed in the rank of Lieutenant Commander.


Almost everything that the South East needed to keep going, particularly coal and oil for the power stations had to come down the North Sea. By 1939 London alone needed a minimum of 40,000 tons of coal each week, a quantity which road and rail could not deliver.  The First World War had shown the vulnerability of shipping along the East Coast route and even before the Second World War began merchant shipping was placed under Admiralty control which gave them the authority to require merchant ships to travel in convoy.

The East Coast Convoys assembled at Methil in the Firth of Forth and ran to Southend in the Thames estuary behind the East Coast Minefield. They were escorted by two V & W Class destroyers from
the Rosyth Escort Force and armed trawlers commanded by a lieutenant. The 4.7 inch main guns on the V & Ws had been replaced with 4-inch HA guns (known as a WAIR conversion) to provide protection against enemy aircraft. When the convoys entered "e-boat alley" which extended south from Crommer to the Harwich area they were reinforced by escorts from the Harwich Fighting Force.

Convoy FS 559

Joiners / Leavers Table The convoys were designated FS (south bound) and FN (north bound) and allocated sequential numbers from 1-99 at which point the numeric sequence began again. This two digit number is used by the escort commanders in their reports and in the Admiralty War Diaries. To avoid confusion naval historians normally add an initial number to identify which sequence the convoy falls within.

We are indebted to Mike Holdoway of Convoy web for providing a spreadsheet of the merchant ships in Convoy 59 (which he designates as Phase 6). The spreadsheet includes details of flag, GRT, date of build and cargo and can be linked to from this web page as a PDF of the merchant ships in Convoy FS (5)59.
  The table on the left showing where ships joined and left the convoy at ports along the east coast has been extracted from the spreadsheet.

Although 44 ships were in the convoy for part of the journey south there were never more than 39 ships in the convoy and these must all have been heading for the Thames as there were no official joiners or leavers south of the Humber.

Bad weather kept the e-boats away but increased the problems of navigating the narrow offshore channels. The convoys was formed into port and starboard columns a quarter of a mile apart and if the distance between ships in each column was 400 yards convoys would often exceed four miles in length. It is easy to see how accidents might happen as they threaded their way through the narrow channels along the east coast in bad weather.

The Escorts

Convoy FS.559 departed Methil on the FIrth of Forth at 1941 on 4 August with the Escort  Leader, HMS Wolsey (Lt Cdr Colin H. Campbell DSC, RN) heading the two columns and HMS Vimiera (Lt.Cdr. Angus A. Mackenzie, RNR) taking up the rear. The Commodore, Lt Cdr R.J. Stephens, was in SS Kentar which led the port column and the VIce Commodore, was in SS Durham Coast which led the starboard column.

The Convoy plan below shows the position after HMS Holderness (Cdr F.J.C. Halshan DSC, RN), Leader of the additional escort from Harwich, reinforced the convoy on 5 August for the passage through E-Boat Alley. The additional escort consisted of HMS Holderness with HMS Cattistock and the A/S trawlers, HMT Bassett and HMT Agate. Holderness and Catisttock were Hunt Class destroyers with similar armament to the WAIR V&Ws of the Rosyth Escort Force. They joined at No 3 Buoy off Flamborough Head and the Kingfisher Class patrol vessels, HMS Mallard and HMS Puffin, and the trawler, HMT Sword Dance, joined the convoy that night at 2000 off the Humber estuary.

The three Anti-submarine Trawlers (HMT Agate, Basset and Sword Dance) were crewed by fishermen but had Royal Navy officers and were based at Harwich. The destroyers of the Harwich force and the trawlers usually reinforced the convoys from the Sunk Lightship (south-east of Harwich) to the Humber (in both directions) which included E-Boat Alley where the convoy was most vulnerable to attack by e-boats and bombers.

Convoy Plan for FS.550 on 5 August 1941

Chart showing ships stranded on Haisborough Sands
Sketch map showing the swept channel followed by the convoy and the positions of the ships which ran aground on Haisborough Sands
The positions of Aberhill and Deerwood have been reversed and the position of Afon Towy and HMS Agate at the tip of South Haisbro are very faint
Taken from the Report of the Board of Enquiry

The Report of the Commanding Officer of HMS Vimiera

Lt Cdr Angus Mackenzie RNR The most detailed account of the contribution made by the officers and crew of HMS Vimiera to the rescue of the men from the merchant ships which ran aground on Haisborough Sands is the typescript report by Lt Cdr Angus Mackenzie RN, the CO of HMS Vimiera (on right), which is in the National Archives (ADM 1/11367) at Kew and is transcribed below by Frank Donald
exactly as written.

The Commanding Officer HMS VIMIERA

To: The Commander in Chief, The Nore

Copy to:
The Commander in Chief, Rosyth

FO i/c Harwich   
Commanding Officer HMS WOLSEY

Subject: Report on loss of HMT AGATE and stranding of Merchant Ships in Convoy FS.59

Vimiera was proceeding South as rear escort with Convoy FS.59 under orders of HMS WOLSEY and was stationed in position “T” on the night of 5th August 1941.

2    Throughout the day and evening the weather had been threatening with strengthening NNW wind, rising sea, thunder, lightning and torrential rain squalls.

3    After darkness fell visibility, although variable, never really became low, because of the favourable moon shining through the cloud.

4    During the Middle Watch SS GLYNN in starboard column being near the rear, had a steering gear breakdown which jammed her rudder hard over and put her across the bows of the following ships causing considerable confusion.

5    By the time these ships had reformed it was realised that there would be a gap between them and the rest of the convoy. HMT SWORD DANCE was detailed to bring on GLYNN when repairs had been effected and VIMIERA to continue with the other ships, taking up a station between the columns.

6.    By 0430 No. 8 Buoy was in sight when a signal was made by R/T from Wolsey that HMT AGATE was ashore and in need of assistance, ordering VIMIERA to stand by.

7    AGATE’S position was never given and as she had been stationed on the Starboard beam of the convoy, speed was increased to search towards the South Western side of the swept channel. AGATE was called on R/T and asked to fire a rocket and VIMIERA switched on dim navigation lights. A rocket was observed to port and in direction of Haisboro and then course was altered in that direction.

8    It is not certain whether this rocket was fired by AGATE as communication was never established with her, and HMT BASSETT who is believed to have rescued AGATE’S survivors, failed to make any informatory signals, although WOLSEY had ordered her to stand by to assist VIMIERA.

9    Middle Haisboro Buoy was closed very cautiously and a ship was seen on the sands, which was taken to be AGATE although no reply could be had by V/S. About this time two heavy bumps were felt as if the ship had touched a wreck or hard object and afterwards inspection revealed damage to A/S dome.

10    The wind was still NNW increased to Force 6-7 with phenomenal thunder, lightning and rain squalls. A very high, dangerous sea was breaking over the sands, and it was therefore decided to stand by to the NW to await daylight.

11    Aerial activity had been taking place in the vicinity of the ships of friendly aircraft bombers, returning, and as one of them flew low over Haisboro sands considerable H.A. fire was observed in the direction of NW and S Haisboro and investigation showed several other ships hard on the sands, and three more following them. Two of these were merchant ships and the other HMT BASSETT.  They were diverted by flashing “U”s on the 10 inch signal projector, BASSETT switching on her steaming lights and passing to Port. In passing she signalled “Where is AGATE?” and although called repeatedly by light and R/T was not seen again until early afternoon.

12    An attempt was made to identify the various ships by V/S. VIMIERA 0508B to Commmander in Chief, The Nore, was made still believing AGATE to be amongst these ships, but she was never actually sighted by VIMIERA. By 0640 six ships could be seen and were identified as:

83 (not 21)

all being in a bad way and requesting assistance from me.

Note: Mackenzie fails to mention the Afon Towy which lost nine crew members including the ship's master a Mr. Strunks, whose family were from Liverpool but is recorded as having been buried in the Sage War Cemetery in Bremen, Germany. Perhaps his body was washed up near there?

13    As the wind had now reached gale force and seas were breaking over them continuously it seemed impossible for VIMIERA to assist and a signal was made for the lifeboat [VIMIERA’S 0715 to Commander in Chief, The Nore]. An attempt was made to veer a Carley Float by means of a grass line to GALLOIS the most Weatherly ship, and VIMIERA went well inside Haisboro Middle Buoy – tho three fathoms by echo sounder – but owing to the wind, sea and tide the raft was swept in the wrong direction and the grass parted. At 0730 it was decided to try the East side of the sands.

14    From East Haisboro Buoy the situation appeared critical, SS TAARA had broken in two and men could be seen in the water with others clinging to masts and derricks. It was obvious that the only way to reach them would be by boat, but it seemed impossible to even launch the whaler in such a sea. However a call for a volunteer crew produced three times the number of hands required.

15    In order to get some sort of lee and to launch the whaler to windward of SS TAARA  it was necessary to steam slowly into East Haisboro Gut where four fathoms of water were found.

16    The whaler was successfully launched and did magnificent work all morning and at one time was flung onto the sands themselves, with the loss of two oars and the boat’s compass. In order to get to some men who had been swept across the sands and down the west side it was necessary to take VIMIERA through the Gut and down to SW Haisboro buoy.

17    Ratings with heaving lines jumped into the water to catch exhausted men who were floating past wearing life jackets – two of these died almost at once. A dog was picked up swimming strongly. By 1100 lifeboats had arrived and even they found difficulty in getting to the wrecks. The Cromer boat having her bows stove in, but they quickly filled up with survivors and ferried them to HMS PUFFIN [HMS PUFFIN was a KINGFISHER class sloop commissioned 1936]  who was now standing by at East Haisboro Buoy. Tugs arrived at the same time but were ordered to return to harbour.

18    The whaler was hoisted at 1200 and PUFFIN with 48 Survivors was ordered to Harwich at 1350.

19    Meanwhile the Cromer Lifeboat made a last search of all the wrecks and eventually came alongside VIMIERA in the lee of the sands and transferred thirty surviviors – several in need of artificial respiration. At 1350 the lifeboat Coxswain reported that wrecks were clear of possible survivors and it was decided to proceed, having 57 survivors all told onboard.

20    The majority of the Ship’s Company were thoroughly exhausted, Mess Decks were awash, W/T Aerial parted and deck fittings smashed but all survivors were attended to.

21    BASSETT was once again met with about this time off SW Haisboro Buoy but was still rather noncooperative and was ordered to proceed to Harwich [Commander in Chief, Nore’s 1415 was not received until 1445] by which time BASSETT was out of V/S touch.

22    Throughout the operation Fighter protection was continuous from daylight, which proved a great comfort. At one time four Hurricanes, two Lysanders, a Walrus and a Beaufort were operating simultaneously. They swooped over the wrecks and the pilots gave the thumbs up to the men in the merchant ships. The survivors said that the sight of the aircraft, and of H M Ship’s standing by, gave them the courage to hang on for the seven hours.

23    It would be hard to state the reason for six ships running ashore under conditions already described.

24    All masters and Officers stated that the red light on No. 8 Buoy was never sighted and they believed that it was not burning – this was entirely wrong. Others blamed other ships for forcing them out of the Channel and onto the sands.

25    It would be interesting to find out in how many ships the Officer of the Watch had also been doing Helmsman. In the Merchant Service it is generally considered that the navigation in Coasters is often casual and no doubt there is often a tendency to follow the ship ahead. It seems that AGATE must have been somewhere near these ships and if keeping an independent reckoning could have turned them to their correct course but she too was unable to give a position in her distress message.

26    When the surviviors were landed at Harwich, very few of them thanked the ship and several had quite a lot of money in their possession but they did not even offer a contribution the Canteen Fund, although VIMIERA’S Ship’s Company treated them from their own pockets.

27    A letter is attached submitting names of Officers, Petty Officers and Men who are considered to have displayed outstanding courage, seamanship and fortitude. It is submitted that although the list may appear somewhat long, the operation involved six ships, and with reference to the Engine Room personnel, the third boiler was connected at 0427 and from then until 1324 all hands in the Engine Room and Stokehold were continuously on their feet. From 0430 to 1324 a total of 481 engine movements were called for, an immediate response being given in each case.

A A Mackenzie
Lieutenant Commander RNR  
In Command

HMT Agate

HMT Agate
HM Trawler Agate
This 627 ton trawler was purchased by the Admiralty in 1935 and converted for anti-submarine duties
Eight crew members were saved and the names of sixteen of the nineteen lost are recorded on the Royal Navy Patrol Service (RNPS) Memorial at Lowestoft
All three officers were killed:  Lt Leonard Harry Cline RNR, her CO (posthumously MID), Sub Lt Peter G. Beard RNVR and Sub Lt Arthur George Tree RNVR.

Board of Enquiry into grounding and loss of convoy on Haisborough Sands:
loss of HMT Agate, SS Deerwood, Aberhill, Gallois, Betty Hindley, Afon Tawy, Taara and Oxshot (ADM 178/271)

The conclusions of the Board of Enquiry dated 30 September 1941 are signed by the Presiding Officer, Vice-Admiral O.E. Leggett RN,  and an Elder Brother of Trinity House and a Captain in the RNR (whose signatures are illegible).

Leggett's conclusions and Findings are unusually blunt but must have met with approval as they led to his appointment as Chairman of the Committee into Collisions in Convoys (1941) which became known as the Lggett Committee and was only dissolved after the war ended in 1945. Leggett died in 1946 and an obituary was published in The Times.

HMT Basset

Basset was near the South Middle Buoy close to the southern tip of South Haisborough and was not immediately aware of the scale of the disaster. She only saw the Agate, on her beam ends, close to the Afon TowyBasset dropped down to leeward as dawn was breaking to pick up the men being washed away from these small craft. About two miles to leeward she picked up a Carley Raft with four men from the Agate. Then she came across a lifeboat half submerged with seven or eight men in it, and nearby a hatch with three men, all from the Afon Towy. The three men on the hatch were picked up and one of them, the Chief Mate, who could not swim, attributed his rescue to the help and support of AB Chattaway RN, one of the Afon Towy’s gunners. The lifeboat capsized under the Basset’s quarter – one man only was got onboard at that time, but another, AB Strudwick RN was picked up much later. Two officers including the Commanding Officer and several of the Basset’s men jumped into the water to assist the occupants of this boat, but only one or two were saved. Basset continued to look for survivors to leeward until 11.00 am by which time she had picked up about fifteen in all. These included three Estonians from the Taara, who gave Basset her first intimation of the other six ships on the sands. Basset then returned to the Sands and was ordered by Vimiera to Harwich.

HMT Bassett

HMS Puffin

Puffin received instructions from the Senior Officer of the Escort to assist Vimiera, and arrived at the Middle Buoy about 6.45 a.m. She made several attempts to float Carley Rafts on a line to the Oxshott and Gallois, but none of these quite succeeded. On the arrival of the Cromer No 1 Lifeboat, Puffin was ordered to lie by the East Buoy to receive survivors. After the Lifeboat had transferred 48 survivors to her, Puffin was ordered to Harwich.

The Scene was described by the Commanding Officer, HMS Puffin, in his report:

“These ships stranded on the Sands were the most grim sight I have ever seen. Five of them were awash to the level of the boat deck and terrific seas were breaking over the ships every few moments. The centre superstructure of each ship was the survivors island and they were being buffeted with every wave. Practically the only part of the Oxshott visible was the boat deck with funnel and stays, to which about 20 survivors were clinging.”

HMS Vimiera

Vimiera’s contribution has been described in the CO’s report. However this extract from Inquiry’s report is of note:

“The whaler was in the water from 8.30 am to Noon, in a sea described by the witnesses from the other ships as making boat work suicidal. She picked up about 20 survivors out of the water, Vimiera at intervals making a lee for her to get them onboard , and then towing the boat to windward again. The work of this boat is described by all witnesses as magnificent, and has been made the subject of a special report by the Commanding Officer. Vimiera took the risk of passing through the Gut to get to leeward to pick up the whaler’s survivors, and she also got some on her own account, ratings jumping overboard with heaving lines to catch men as they floated past.”

The Lifeboats

The Cromer No. 1 Lifeboat (Coxswain Henry Blogg) was first on the scene at 10.30 am, and made for the Gallois. Here she was directed to the Oxshott as being more in need, only her funnel casing remaining above water, with men hanging onto the funnel guys. The lifeboat was nosed in for the men to jump one by one, but every time she crashed her bows on submerged wreckage, and her stem was badly damaged. Sixteen men were recovered from Oxshott, and then another 31 from the Gallois, who were put onboard Puffin by the East Buoy. The lifeboat then went to Deerwood where 19 men were rescued and then crossed to the Taara where she found the Cromer No. 2 lifeboat had taken off 8 men. She then went to Betty Hindley and took off another 22 (making a total of 88 rescued). In this case the water was so shallow and the swell so heavy that the boat was hitting the ground all the time. After leaving Betty Hindley the lifeboat grounded but was fortunate to get off again and then took the survivors to Vimiera. The Gorleston Lifeboat in the meantime had arrived and took off 23 men from the Aberhill.

Henry Bloogs, 65 year old Coxon of the Cromer No Lifeboat, HF Bailey,  for 38 years
Cromer Lifeboat No 1, HF Bailey, and 65 year old Henry Blogg, her Coxwain for 38 years
To find out more about Henry Blogg and the Cromer lifeboat visit the Henry Blogg Museum at Cromer
Courtesy of Steve Snelling

Haisborough Sands Life Saving Operations

Official Number
Rescued by
SS Oxshott (1915)
Cromer 1 (HF Bailey)
SS Gallois (1917)
Cromer 1 (HF Bailey) 0
SS Aberhill (1915)
Gorleston (Louise Stephens)
SS Taara (1907)
38HMS Vimiera (27), Cromer 2 - Harriot Dixon (8), HMT Basset (3)
SS Deerwood (1914)
143456 19Cromer 1 (HF Bailey) 2
SS Betty Hindley (1941)
Cromer 1 (HF Bailey) 0
SS Afon Towy (1919)
HMT Basset
HMT Agate
HMT Basset (5), Not known (3)




1    Numbers rescued by lifeboats agrees with Board of Enquiry summary.
      Numbers lost  for Oxshott, Deerwood and Afon Towy agrees with Tower Hill Merchant Navy Memorial.
      There are 16 dead from HMT Agate recorded on the 
Royal Navy Patrol Service (RNPS) Memorial at Lowestoft     
2    The wartime crew lists for merchant ships are at the National Archives arranged by the Official Number (click on the link for NA Reference).
       Ships may have the same name but their Official Number assigned by Lloyds is always unique and is given in Lloyds Register of Shipping.

3    Two of the seamen rescued by Vimiera’s swimmers died almost immediately.
      We do not know whether they have been included in the 27.

4    We do not know who rescued 3 of the Agate ship’s company.

5    We do not know which ship two of Basset’s survivors were from. 

Recommendations for Awards to Officers and Ratings in HMS Vimiera
National Archives ADM 1/11367

HMS Vimiera submitted no fewer than eighteen forms of Recommendation for a  Decoration or Mention in Despatches to Captain (D) Rosyth, all of which were forwarded to CinC Rosyth on 29th August arranged in recommended priority order. They covered the Whaler’s Crew, ratings who jumped into the water to rescue floating survivors, Midshipman Lacy, two signals ratings and two senior ratings from the Engineering Department.

Awards to the crew of the whalerWhaler’s Crew

The basic citation read “For volunteering and successfully manning and taking away the whaler to rescue the crews of stranded merchant ships during phenomenal conditions of wind and sea, with the almost certain risk of being capsized and drowned. Other H.M. Ships in Company judged the weather conditions would not admit the launching of a boat, and VIMIERA’s whaler was the only one launched. The majority of the crew of the Estonian ship “Taara” were rescued by the whaler.”

Special additions were:

“Sub Lieutenant David Dennis O’Sullivan carried out the duties of Coxswain of the whaler and his exemplary conduct greatly encouraged the crew.”

“Petty Officer James Errington was senior P.O. in the whaler and it is considered that his conduct when the whaler was washed across the sands, and in imminent danger of capsizing, was largely responsible for keeping the whaler’s crew together”.

The other members of the whaler’s crew were Acting Petty Officer Edmund John Archer, Leading Seaman  Stanley Aylmer Adams, Able Seaman Robert William Briggs, and Able Seaman Victor Reginald Benningfield.

Individual Rescuers

Leading Seaman Victor Sidney Hale, Able Seaman Andrew McCormack, Able Seaman John Thomas Lee, Able Seaman Roland Edward Averley, Able Seaman William Henry Fasey, Able Seaman William Gabbot  Foster and Able Seaman Archibald Sinclair Brown  were commended “For jumping overboard and rescuing men from the sea during a gale.” 


Midshipman David Frost Lacy was commended

“For carrying out the task of plotting the Ship’s position under exceptionally difficult conditions for 14 hours without respite, thereby allowing the Commanding Officer to concentrate on handling the ship. Due to his organisation of the Echo Sounder and hand lead the Ship was able to be brought sufficiently close to render assistance to the stranded Merchant Seamen on the Haisboro Sands.”

Leading Signalman Francis McAnna and Signalman George Victor Hutchings were both commended as follows

“For continued vigilance. He was instrumental in locating men in the water and in directing the operations of the lifeboats.”

Engine Room Artificer William Henry Hodgson and Stoker Petty Officer Charles Donald Fox were both commended as follows

“For being at his station below without respite from 0430 until 1400.  The engines were in constant use throughout this time and although out of sight it was in no small way due to his efforts that the rescue was made possible.”

When forwarding the recommendation forms Captain (D) added

“In recognition of the fine seamanship, efficiency and judgement displayed by Acting Lieutenant Commander Angus Alexander Mackenzie RNR in Command of HMS Vimiera, it is strongly recommended that he should be granted fourteen months additional seniority ..... so as to confirm him in his present rank.”

On 1st August the CinC forwarded the list and forms to the Secretary to the Admiralty, and on the 18th September the Honours and Awards Committee submitted their recommendations for approval by the First Lord of the Admiralty and His Majesty the King. They recommended the award of Member of the Order of the British Empire (Military) to Sub Lieutenant O’Sullivan, and the British Empire Medal (Military) to the other members of the whaler’s crew. They further awarded a Mention in Despatches to Lieutenant Commander Mackenzie but ruled that the award of extra seniority was a separate issue.

In respect of the other recommendations the Committee proposed asking  the Commanding Officer of the Vimiera to send forms for submission to the Royal Humane Society, but it is not known if this was ever done.

The Legend of the East Coast Convoys

The convoys which crept back and forth along the east coast seem dull compared with the Atlantic convoys which kept Britain from starvation and the Arctic Convoys which supplied Russia with the arms to fight and win the war on the Easten Front.

The V & W destroyers with their dual purpose High Altitude 4-inch guns to fight off attacking aircraft and German E-Boats had a less glamorous war than the escorts for Atlantic Convoys to North America and Arctic Convoys to Northern Russia but their contribution was just as important to London and the South East as the fighter planes and their pilots which won the Battle of Britain.

The East Coast Convoys have not been forgotten in the ports on the east coast where the fishermen lived who manned the Anti-submarine Trawlers of "Harry Tate's Navy, the RNPS (Royal Navy Patrol Service). The legend of these ships and of lifeboatmen like Henry Blogg, the Coxwain of the Cromer 1 Lifeboat, HF Bailey, are remembered and celebrated from Methil where the convoys assembled on the FIrth of Forth to where they ended at Southend on the Thames estuary.

Contemporary Press CittingThe Hornet retells the story of Haisborough Sands

The rescue of 162 men from the eight ships which ran aground on Haisborough Sands on the 6 August 1941 is one of the most dramatic events in the story of the East Coast Convoys. It was celebrated at the time in the papers published in the small ports where the ships joined and left the convoys and where the lifeboats were based and later in the pages of comics like the Hornet read by the children of the men who served in them.

The dramatic story was retold by journalist and naval historian, Steve Snelling, in two weekend issues of the Eastern Daily Press in August 2016
See page one and page two of part one in the Eastern Daily Press, 6 August
See page one and page two of part two, Eastern Daily Press, 13 August

Several of those recommended for awards were killed four months later when Vimiera detonated a mine and sunk in the Thames estuary on 6 January 1942
Their widows went to Buckingham Palace to receive the awards after the death of their husbands

To find out more about what it was like to escort east coast convoys read the journal kept by Derek Tolfree,
a Midshipman on HMS Westminster, while escorting east coast convoys between December 1942 and March 1944.
And read Julian Foynes masterly book Battle of the East Coast (1994)

To find out more about the wartime service of a member of your family who served in HMS Vimiera you should obtain a copy of their service record
To find out how follow this link:

If you have stories or photographs of HMS Vimiera you would like to contribute to the web site please contact Frank Donald

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