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

The first patrol of U-187
Sunk by HMS Vimy while attacking Convoy SC.118

4 February 1943

On returning to Britain Vimy's port propeller damaged in the collision with U-162 in September was repaired at Portsmouth and she joined Escort Group B2 at Liverpool. On 1 December 1942  Lt.Cdr. Richard Been Stannard, VC, RD, RNR  succeeded De Chair as CO. He was a 37 year old Lieutenant in the RNR when he won his VC in May 1940 while commanding the armed trawler HMS Arab at the evacuation of troops from Mamsos, Norway. On 4 February 1943 HMS Vimy and Beverley sunk U-187 while escorting Slow Convoy 118 (SC.118) and rescued the survivors.

Escort Group B2 consisting of HM Destroyers Beverley, Vanessa and Vimy, HM Corvettes Abelia, Campanula and Mignonette, HM Trawler Toward, Free French Lobelia and US Coast Guard Cutter Bibb escorted eastbound Convoy SC.118 of 64 merchant ships from Sydney, Cape Breton Island,  Nova Scotia to Liverpool.  On the morning of February 4th 1943, Convoy SC118 was spotted by U-187 under the command of KLt. Ralph Munnich. At 1046/4 HM.Trawler Toward picked up U-187’s sighting signal. This information was passed on to Cdr. Proudfoot, the Escort Force Commander in HMS Vanessa. HMS Beverley intercepted this message and anticipated Proudfoot’s order to head out along the line of bearing. At 1100 HMS Beverly sighted U-187 and forced her away from the track of the convoy. Conditions prevented the Beverly’s gun crews from opening fire but when the distance between the two vessels was down to 2 miles, the U-boat was forced to submerge.

Beverley’s ASDIC  was out of order and she was joined by HMS Vimy, which quickly located the submerged U-Boat and attacked her for an hour and a half, eventually forceing her to the surface. U-187’s crew hurriedly abandoned ship and shortly afterwards she sank by the stern. Nine men died and there were 45 survivors. The photographs of the survivors of U-187  struggling in the water alongside HMS Beverley were brought home by AB Albert Ludlow and AB Robert Holland, Gunners in HMS Vimy. The identity of the photographer is not know but is assumed to have  been a member of the ship's company. On returning to Liverpool at the end of February Vimy received a heroes welcome and an official naval photographer, Lt H.W. Tomlin, photographed the prisoners coming ashore and Stannard aboard HMS Vimy. These photographs are in the Imperial War Museum, London, but some can be seen on this web page.

Eight ships were lost from SC.118 for three U-boats destroyed before the convoy reached Liverpool on 12 February after one of the hardest fought battles of the campaign. For a complete account of the eight day running battle to protect SC118 from the u-boats of Wolf Pack Group Pfeil see The Real Cruel Sea: The Merchant Navy in the Battle of the Atlantic, 1939–1943 by Richard Woodman (John Murray, 2004; Pen and Sword Maritime, 2011). HMS Beverley (H64), a former American "four stacker" in the USN, was torpedoed on 11 April 1943 by U-188 with the loss of 151 lives. There were only four survivors.

described the sinking of U-187 in an interview with the BBC on 27 February 1943. It is included in a collection of recorded interviews published as The War at Sea 1939-45, but it can also be listened to on youtube. A transcript is given below with a photograph of Stannard on the bridge of Vimy (IWM Ref. A 15013). A longer more detailed account by Sub Lt Raymond Briggs Venables RNVR, an officer in HMS Vimy,  is on Reel 8 of a recording in the Sound Collection of the IWM. Click on the link to listen to it online.


Lt.Cdr. Richard Been Stannard, VC, RD, RNR

Lt.Cdr. Richard Been Stannard, VC, RD, RNR had succeeded de Chair as CO of HMS Vimy on 1 Dec 1942 and briefly describes her part in the sinking of U-187 on 4 February 1943 below:

Stannard"It is only the odd spot of hectic excitement lasting a few hours that keeps the small ships going. Life at sea for destroyers and corvettes in the Western Ocean means day after day of monotony, foul weather, rain, hail and intervals of fog and ice.  It may depend on a few minutes of action whether we get the chance of a kill or not.

Our latest spot of excitement started at eleven o’clock in the morning when our sister destroyer Beverley reported “Submarine in sight bearing 037 degrees, 7 miles. We were about three miles astern at this time and what a glorious feeling it was as full speed ahead was ordered, and the ship leapt forward. There was a moderate sea, and spray was coming over the fo’csle and B Gun. At about 1130 we came abreast of our sister destroyer and at that moment we saw the U Boat submerge about four to five miles ahead.

Both destroyers kept at full speed until we reached the approximate position where the submarine was last seen. Then we reduced speed and dropped smoke floats to mark the area, and afterwards we proceeded to carry out an underwater search. In quite a short time we found the submarine, and  Beverley stood by while we went in to attack with depth charges. By this time of course we were at action stations, and our ship shuddered time and again as depth charges exploded beneath the surface. A few minutes later came the moment for which we had waited long months.  The U Boat surfaced astern of us breaking the sea surface at an angle of about sixty degrees. A great cry went out from the crew “there she is!”

Soon shells were bursting all round the submarine as she leveled off on the surface. By this time we had increased to full speed and the ship was listing over as she came round with helm hard over to starboard. [NB, she would be listing outwards to port FD]. Now B Gun, which was forward just below the bridge received the order to open fire. The noise was deafening, with the regular bark of the main armament, and the constant stutter of our 20 milli-metre machine guns, the latter used mainly for preventing the enemy crew from manning their guns. It seemed hours but it was only a matter of seconds before we were heading straight for the U Boat. As we drew near, we could see some of the crew jumping into the water, and this was the first indication we had that the U Boat had been damaged.

I didn’t give the order to cease fire in case she tried to get away. When we were about 500 yards off, the U Boat seemed suddenly to stand on end, with about a hundred feet of her forward part vertical. We then saw one salvo from B Gun smack straight into her. By this time her crew were 150 yards away from the sinking ship. I gave the order “cease fire” as she sank slowly below the below the surface. The next orders were “out Scrambling nets, away seaboats, and prepare to save prisoners”.

Slowly we crept up the where the bobbing heads were gathered. Beverley was by this time carrying on with the rescue work, and we signaled “Don’t be greedy, leave us a few”. Only one signal was sent to the Senior Officer who was shepherding the convoy away from this once dangerous spot – “Got Him!” – that was all. He understood.

Two of the German Petty Officers were berthed in the Engine Room Artificers’ Mess, and we were amused to hear that about 2 am two days later, when Action Stations were sounded off, one of the ERAs didn’t hear the alarm gong. One of the prisoners, who spoke English, leapt out of his bunk and shook the  sleeping ERA saying urgently “You go, sink sub, else much trouble”, meaning that this particular ERA would get into trouble if he didn’t get to his action station."
Lt Cdr Richard Stannard VC RD RNR

Click on the link to a detailed account of Lt Cdr Richard B. Stannard's life and wartime service including the award of his VC while commanding HM Tug Arab during the evacuation of troops from Namsos, Norway, in 1940.

Survivors from U-187 and HMS Beverley
HMS Beverley (H64), the former American "four-stacker", USS Branch, transferred to the Royal Navy under the Lend Lease Agreement
HMS Vimy sunk U-187 but most of the survivors were rescued by HMS Beverley, so Vimy messaged "save us a few"
Courtesy of Peter McQuade

Peter McQuade remembred his Grandfather, AB Albert Ludlow, describing how:

"They lowered their nets and Germans were climbing aboard.  He pulled a, "Massive Ginger haired Mountain of a man" into the ship.  Everyone was shocked how big he was!  A few minutes later they pulled another man, who was like an identical twin to the Man Mountain from a few minutes earlier.  As Granddad looked behind him, the Poles who were serving aboard Vimy were throwing the Germans back into the sea on the other side of the ship.  So it wasn't actually "twins" but the same man they had pulled from the sea twice."

Survivors from U-187 in the water alongside HMS Beverley
The crew of HMS Beverley assist the survivors of U-187 climb aboard
Courtesy of Peter McQuade

Survivors from U-187 after landing at LiverpoolSurvor from U-187 being guarded by "Jakko"
The survivors from U-187 being marched off under guard after being landed at Liverpool's Gladstone Dock (left) and under guard "by Jakko" (right)
Courtesy of Shane Harley

The Sinking of U-187  - Interrogation report

The captured survivors from U-187 wwre interrogated at length by specialists in the Admiralty's Naval Intelligence Division (NID) and their report
was traced by naval historian Tony Cooper in The National Archives at Kew and supplied to where it can be see at this address:

The following commentary is by Lt Cdr Frank Donald RN (Ret), the son of a former CO of HMS Vimy, Lt Cdr Colin Donald RN,  who was killed on the bridge of Vimy his first command on 23 May 1940 during the evacuation of the Welsh and Irish Guards from Boulogne. Frank Donald also joined the Royal Navy and during the course of a thirty year career spent 14 years with the Submarine Branch during which he was Second in Command of HMS Ambush 1968 - 69, and Commanding Officer of HMS Sealion 1970 - 71.

Frank Donald's background gives him a unique insight into the events described by Lt Cdr Stannard illustrated by the photographs brought home at the end of the war by AB Arnold Ludlow and AB Robert Holland.

The description by crew members of U-187 is in black text and the times and events as recorded aboard Vimy and Beverley are indented and set in blue. For clarity times are set in bold.


On 4th February U-187 was part of Wolf Pack Group Pfeil. She was on the surface, and Sea state was 5 or 6. At 0800 GMT a burst of Very lights was seen to port. U187 immediately closed the position to investigate. Prisoners claimed that these lights were the first detection of a convoy which was, in fact SC118. They presumed that the lights were fired either as a signal to the ships to alter course or close up. At 0900 the Officer of the watch reported the smoke plumes of a large East bound convoy 10 miles distant. They estimated that the convoy would pass through the centre of the area covered by U187. At 0955 a “first sighting” signal was made to Admiral U-Boats but not acknowledged.

At 1006 a second “first sighting” signal was made and acknowledged. As U-187 was the first to detect the convoy she assumed the duty of “contact keeper”. At 1046 a third signal was made giving the convoy strength and position. Remaining on the surface U187 took up position about 10 miles ahead of the convoy. This move was criticized by both officer and rating survivors as the first of two tactical errors made by the CO (Oberleutnant Munnich). The more experienced prisoners gave the opinion that Munnich would have done far better to have withdrawn and taken station astern of the convoy.
At 1100, as reported by Vimy, Beverley stationed five miles ahead of the starboard wing sighted a U-Boat about 10 miles ahead of the convoy and gave chase. SS Toward obtained an HF/DF and the Convoy Escort Commander in Vanessa ordered Vimy to assist Beverley.

At 1115 the bow waves of two approaching destroyers were sighted from U-187’s bridge, and Munnich ordered “Alter course, full speed ahead on the surface”. This was considered by prisoners to be Munnich’s second mistake. They felt that U-187 had already delayed far too long before diving. One prisoner suggested that Munnich still hoped to signal convoy speed and escort strength.

At 1145, realising that he could not escape the destroyers by zig-zagging on the surface Munnich gave the order to dive. The U-Boat did not respond well and took a full 50 seconds to submerge.   

At 1145 Beverley reported that the U-Boat had dived four miles ahead, and by 1200 both she and Vimy were in the vicinity of the diving position which Beverly had marked with a flare. At 1203 Vimy obtained a good contact at 800 yards bearing 000, with moderate opening doppler (echo pitch mod low). The close range gave little time to find its movements, and at 1206 the ship was considered to be over it. A flare was dropped and Vimy turned to starboard but was unable to regain contact immediately. She steered a westerly course for one mile, then altering course to 060, sweeping 80 degrees on either bow. At 1235 contact was regained bearing 009, 1200 yards, again with moderate low doppler and a slight movement to the left. This one produced  a fair (paper) bearing recorder trace, and was attacked with a five depth charge pattern at 100 feet.

Prisoners stated that U187 was at 260 feet when the first depth charges were heard. An experienced Petty Officer said that he was standing near Munnich at the time and he remarked “I have never heard depth charges dropped so far away. No damage was sustained within the U-boat which was then at 440 feet.

Beverley reported that her asdics were out of action due to the high speed running and she was unable to take any part in the hunt. Vimy regained a fairly firm contact astern and turned to starboard at four knots to get targeting information for a hedgehog attack. At 1255 she increased to 8 knots, and at 1300 fired the hedgehog with a poor bearing recorder trace.

At 1300 U187’s crew heard a second series of explosions rather closer than the first. Prisoners said that no appreciable damage was done, but U187 was trimming badly and when level tended to rise. Because of this all the crew who could be spared from action stations were sent forward to the bow compartment to make the U-Boat heavier forward. Here they appeared to have become alarmed for Leutnant Strait was sent forward to calm the men. One of his actions was apparently to disconnect the compartment depth gauge.

As the hedgehog bombs would only have gone off on contact they must have hit something if U187’s crew heard explosions, but Vimy heard no results from her attack. At 1310 she regained contact bearing 290 with moderate opening doppler. A fair bearing recorder trace was obtained with a slight right movement and Vimy attacked at 1315 with a 14 charge deep pattern.

U187 survivors said that a third depth charge pattern fell fairly near the U-Boat and caused the first major damage. Lights failed in the (hydrophone) Listening Room and in the conning tower. The GHG was temporarily put out of action and depth gauges in the conning tower and stern compartment broke. Some prisoners believed that the after hydroplanes were affected by this attack, and added that U187 suddenly became stern heavy and rose rapidly to about 250 feet before she could be checked. She had been proceeding at 2-3 knots. Munnich again ordered her down to 440 feet.

The Petty Officer Telegraphist stated that throughout these attacks he had been on duty in the Listening Room. Each time he had reported “(Attack) Run in beginning, Alter Course”. Munnich had said yes, but had kept the U-Boat on the same course, except for a slight alteration after the second attack. The Junior Officer who was seated beside him  in the Listening Room had added that it was not necessary to alter course. The PO Telegraphist claimed that immediately before each attack an acoustic “Pill” (Pillen Werfer bubble decoy) had been ejected from the underwater signal ejector. The First Lieutenant had confirmed this, but said that he thought that the U-Boat was moving so slowly that the Pills may even have betrayed her position.

Following her attack at 1315, Vimy ran out astern until the range was 1700 yards, and came into the attack again. Echoes were becoming very weak and only two echoes left a mark on the Bearing Recorder, and the aiming information had to be estimated by ear and eye. Inclination (the angle on the target’s bow) was slightly closing, and the target appeared to be moving slowly right. Vimy dropped her second and successful 14 charge pattern at 1333.

Prior to the fourth and last depth charge attack the noise of the two destroyers was picked up on the hydrophones, one bearing 000 and the other 180. The PO Telegraphist said that he realised at once that their position was desperate. He reported “Run is Beginning” and commented “if we don’t alter course now its all up”. This time his anxiety was shared by the Junior Officer, who suddenly flung down his earphones and dashed out of the Listening Room white in the face. A prisoner described the explosion of this series as “like the roar of an avalanche”. A Quartermaster who had been detailed to keep a log of the attacks sad that he never had time to add “near” after “depth charges”. It was believed by many survivors that some depth charges actually exploded on the outer casing. Lights failed in all compartments forward of the Control Room but not aft. The gyro compass was wrecked. A fracture 4 ft long and half an inch wide was caused in the pressure hull aft, and the U-Boat becoming stern heavy inclined at an angle of 45 degrees bow up. The port side of the Control Room was stove in and oil from a port fuel tank cascaded into the boat. This oil swamped the batteries, generating dense fumes. At this moment Meyer, the Engineer Officer, told Munnich that the position was hopeless and they must surface at once if anyone was to escape alive. The U-Boat laboured slowly upwards, while the calmer members of the ship’s company, convinced that their end was near, solemnly shook hands in farewell. Prisoners estimated that U187 took 5 minutes to reach the surface, and added that when she finally emerged most of their air was exhausted.

Vimy reported that the U-Boat surfaced 50 degrees bow up at 1337.

No order to abandon ship reached the bow compartment but Strait led the men there up through the galley hatch.  Simultaneously, the remainder were leaving through the Control Room hatch. Once on the upper deck a number of ratings clustered round the 105 mm gun for support, while others misguidedly attempted to clear the gun away. This caused fire to be opened on them from the destroyers, then about 600 yards away. Confusion reigned for some seconds, until a wave swept those on deck into the water.

No clear account was forthcoming as to the fate of Munnich or Meyer. According to one prisoner he last saw Meyer hustling men up the conning tower hatch, and he believed that he stayed with the U-Boat. Munnich was variously described as shooting himself, and as standing on the conning tower as the U-Boat went down for the last time. Two officers, the Midshipman and 31 men were picked up by Beverley, and nine ratings by Vimy. Four of the ratings rescued by Vimy died later of wounds and were buried at sea.

Frank Donald

Press Reports

Western Mornng News

18th March 1942

Convoy Escorts Sink U-Boats
V.C. Who Drew First Blood

In his first important action in the North Atlantic, Lieut Com. R B Stannard, V.C, RNR, commanding officer of the 25 year old destroyer H.M.S Vimy, last month sank a U-boat. This was first blood in one of the greatest battles of the winter between the naval escorts of the convoy and U-boats. The battle was fought out by British, American, and Fighting French ships, assisted by Liberator and Sunderland aircraft of the R.A.F. At least three U-boats were destroyed or probably destroyed, and many others must have been seriously damaged. The convoy did not escape without loss.

Stalked It

The U-boat sunk by the Vimy was sighted at severn miles range one morning by the ex-American destroyer H.M.S Beverley (Lieut Com A. Price), which stalked it until within two and a half miles, and called the Vimy to join in the hunt. The U-boat dived, but the Vimy quickly found the scent. Her third attack with depth charges brought the penned in U-boat to the surface between the two ships. Both destroyers opened fire, and the U-boat crew were seen jumping into the water. The U-boat sank stern first at a steep angle until only her bow was visible, poised like a black cone above the water. Before this too disappeared the Vimy scored a direct hit as a parting shot. Forty prisoners were picked up by the Beverley before the Vimy signalled “Don't be greedy, leave me afew” . The Vimy then picked up nine prisoners, four of whom subsequently died, and were buried at sea. This was the beginning of a battle which lasted three days and three nights. Other attacks were carried out by the Vimy, the British corvetts Mignonette (Lieut H.H. Brown) Abelia (Lieut Com F Ardern) and Campanula (Lieut Com B.A. Rogers) the United States destroyer Babbitt and the Free French corvette Lobelia, to which went the credit of another U-boat probably destroyed. On the first morning of the battle two U-boats attacked, and that was when the Vimy scored first blood. That night the attack was resumed by five U-boats, and the numbers of U-boats in the attacking pack continued to increase.

Chased Five More

With her 40 Germans an uneasy audience below decks, the Beverley chased and engaged five further U-boats. On the night following the first sinking she ran a U-boat down on the surface to 200 yards. The U-boat dodged from side to side of her bow, disappearing and reappearing in the mist in an effort to escape being rammed. The destroyer yawed at full speed in pursuit, with tracer bullets streaming from her Oerlikon and Lewis guns. When the U-boat made a crash dive the Beverley attacked with depth charges. On her back to rejoin  the Beverley sighted another U-boat at a range of 500 yards. Another furious chase began, the U-boat turning sharply and the Beverley following her in an effort to ram, at the same time firing on her at close range. Even the men posted as sentries over the prisoners joined in the fight. The next morning the Beverley again attacked two U-boats on the surface, with promising signs of damage or destruction. On three days Liberator and Sunderland aircraft took a hand and destroyed at least one and dameaged four U-boats. For four hours on one night H.M.S Mignonette had frequently to break off the work of rescuing survivors to drive off U-boats on the surface. Time after time she returned to her task and saved 88 men from the water.

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